He took the club to heights its fans had never dared to dream of. It seemed as if the day he walked away might never happen. He is succeeded by a Glaswegian manager from the lineage of Jock Stein. Parting was such sweet sorrow. His club may never be the same without him.
Yes, Owen Coyle is stepping into mighty shoes in replacing Roberto Martinez at Wigan Athletic. And the managerial merry-go-round, after 26 years, has finally spun for Manchester United. Martinez has replaced David Moyes at Everton. Moyes has replaced the most successful manager of all time, and the winner of ESPN's Greatest Manager poll too.
The Community Shield, a semi-competitive curtain-raiser, rarely means as much as Sunday's fixture might do. Moyes has a chance to either win his first silverware or suffer the first onslaught of failing to match the achievements of his predecessor. Still, at least he might be able to talk about football rather than faltering transfer business.
What's at stake?
For Moyes, anything less than victory, and by some margin too, will be a hugely damaging reverse. And with style too. United's attacking traditions need to be in evidence. Wigan are a Championship club, the humiliation of losing to them is too dark to contemplate. Moyes has looked pained of late, and pre-season has been something of a pain to him too. The real business starts at Swansea next Saturday, but a win at Wembley will be a definite perk to spirits that have taken something of a jolt.
Owen Coyle has a chance of redemption at Wigan, after his reputation took a battering in the last days of his reign at Bolton. Coyle, let us recall with amusement, was once favoured by dissident Arsenal fans as the man to take over from Arsene Wenger. Wigan fans have the chance to relive the happiest day of their footballing lives at Wembley, though in far lesser numbers. Wigan have very little to lose, and the match is a shot to nothing for them. Victory here might supply a sweetness to last the season.
Style and tactics:
Moyes favoured the single striker at Everton, with midfielders supporting the front man. Robin van Persie will plough that furrow on Sunday, with Shinji Kagawa playing off him in the role that was once Wayne Rooney's. Two flank men will be employed too, with Wilfried Zaha or Antonio Valencia on the right. An injury to Nani, and Ryan Giggs' ageing legs may mean Danny Welbeck plays out on the left. Michael Carrick needs a partner at the base of midfield. In the absence of new arrivals, Anderson and Tom Cleverley are competing.
Martinez's unorthodox 3-4-3 has been abandoned by Coyle. At Barnsley last Saturday, where victory was secured, it was a 4-3-3 that was employed, with Grant Holt leading the line, and Jean Beausejour and Shaun Maloney playing off him. James McCarthy and James McArthur will play in front of anchorman Ben Watson. The careful passing game of the Premier League years has not yet been fully abandoned but the addition of Holt adds the ability to be more direct.
Players to watch:
United fans would have liked some new faces but Cesc Fabregas will not be playing for them here. Instead, Wilfried Zaha, who was linked with a loan move until a fine tour of Asia, is the new thing. Kagawa should get the chance to play in the position where he made his reputation at Borussia Dortmund. Anderson has been getting rave reviews from his new manager. Completing the 90 minutes would be a pointer to a player finally knuckling down after six years of flabby underachievement.
Grant Holt was the Rickie Lambert of his day, the lower division trundler who might have got an England chance. Dropping down a division closes off that, but he now carries the hopes of taking Wigan back to the Premier League. Ben Watson returns to the stage where he scored an FA Cup-winning goal, while Emmerson Boyce has become the Latics' senior defender. James McCarthy may be playing one of his last games for Wigan. If United sign Marouane Fellaini from Everton, it is expected McCarthy will join the exodus to Goodison Park.
What will happen?
United have sold a record amount of tickets. Some estimates place the numbers above 45,000, which is as big an allocation as the club have taken to Wembley since the 1968 European Cup final. Wigan have sold just 3,000, and some of them are said to be in the hands of United fans. That means that the weight of expectation and support will be resolutely on the side of United. They will need to defend better than they have on their tour matches. David Moyes has bad memories of Wigan. It was them who destroyed his last chance of silverware at Everton in the FA Cup last season. His team will be sent out with intensity, and with only victory in mind.
United have to win, and should do, but Wigan may give them a scare or two.