LONDON Manchester United manager in waiting David Moyes said he had not expected to be leaving Everton after 11 years in charge and had already begin planning for next season when the Old Trafford giants came calling this week.
In a whirlwind few days for the landscape of British football, Alex Ferguson announced that he was to retire as United's manager after 27 trophy-laden years on Wednesday and the following day Moyes was named as his successor.
Ferguson's decision to stand aside sent shockwaves around the football world and dominated the sports pages this week in Britain, yet any talk of the challenge Moyes faces at United was deemed off-limits at his Friday news conference.
The irony was not lost on Moyes when the first question came his way. "Any thoughts on West Ham?" lightened the mood and even the steely-eyed Glaswegian broke into a broad smile before discussing his final home fixture in charge of Everton against West Ham on Sunday.
"In due course I will try and make it up and say something to you," the 50-year-old Moyes told reporters. "But I would respect you today if you keep the questions solely about Everton Football Club."
While not mentioning his new club, Moyes had no qualms about describing his affection for Everton and admitted he was ready to stay on despite his contract expiring at the end of the season and his name linked with some top clubs.
"I wasn't planning to leave Everton. My contract was running out but if you pushed me I would say my mind was swaying on staying at Everton. I had everything in place for next season, all the pre-season preparations, the chairman knew the route I wanted to keep moving us forward."
Moyes, who earned Everton a top-four finish in the Premier League in 2004-05 and also took them to an FA Cup final, said he would understand if the Goodison Park fans were upset that he has decided to accept the challenge of replacing Ferguson.
"I hope they react the way they did when I first stepped in the door. If they don't, I can understand because I'm a fan myself," he said.
"If the fans don't react well I understand because you support your team.
"I will stand in the same position I always do and the big thing is we finish the season with as many points as we can.
"I was relatively unknown coming from Preston. They supported me and got behind me and I'd like to thank them for their support. It's not normal that a manager stays in a job for 11 years and without the backing of the supporters that wouldn't have happened."
Sixth-placed Everton play mid-table West Ham at Goodison Park on Sunday (1400 GMT) before facing Chelsea in their last game of the season at Stamford Bridge on May 19.
Midfielder Phil Neville will also be playing his final home game for Everton and said it will be an emotional day.
"Forget my situation, just in terms of the celebration for the manager and his achievements, it is going to be an unbelievable day and I can't wait to be involved in it," he told Everton's website.
Moyes officially takes over at United on July 1.
(Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)