knack for rooting out transfer bargains in unexpected locations.
Prior to his appointment as United manager on Thursday, Moyes had been the third longest-serving head coach in the Premier League, trailing only Ferguson and the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
He spent 11 years at Everton and although he leaves Goodison Park without having won a trophy, he was widely praised for keeping the club in the upper reaches of the English elite despite operating on a shoestring budget.
"Evertonians owe everything to David Moyes. He took on our club when it was on its knees," said Everton chairman Bill Kenwright in 2009.
"We laid out a plan and he has never come off it. I worship the man. He is the greatest manager in the world."
Since arriving from his first managerial role at Preston North End in 2002, Moyes has rarely had much money to spend on improving his squad, but he has proved particularly adept at signing and developing players from the lower leagues.
Australian Tim Cahill, a £2.5 million ($3.9 million, three million euros) signing from Millwall in 2004, became one of the most accomplished goal-scoring midfielders in the English top flight, while defenders Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka both went on to play for England after signing from second-tier sides.
Moyes was also the man who handed Wayne Rooney his professional debut at the age of just 16, before he joined United in 2004 in a blockbuster £27 million deal.
Defeat by Chelsea in the 2009 FA Cup final was the closest Moyes came to lifting any silverware during his time on Merseyside, but Everton have not finished outside the top eight since 2006 and he has been named the League Managers' Association Manager of the Year on three separate occasions.
A modern manager who utilised the services of three performance data analysts at Everton, he also possesses Ferguson's iron will and ferocious hunger for success. Former United captain Steve Bruce said he was "cut from the same cloth".
United have never had a manager from outside the British Isles and in many ways Moyes represents a traditional appointment, but his lack of European experience is glaring.
Only twice did Everton make it beyond the first round of a continental competition under his stewardship and he has had no real exposure to the Champions League.
Like Ferguson, a former Rangers striker, Moyes spent time at one of Scottish football's Old Firm clubs, but after coming through the youth ranks at Celtic he failed to make the grade and spent his playing days in the lower leagues in England and Scotland.
He finally settled at Preston, spending six years at Deepdale, and having started studying for his coaching badges at the age of just 22, he worked his way up the club's coaching structure before being appointed manager in 1998.
He led Preston into the English second tier as Second Division champions in his third year and then took the club to the brink of the Premier League, only for them to lose to local rivals Bolton Wanderers in the 2001 play-off final.
It was the first major disappointment of his managerial career, but within a year he was at Everton, where he quickly endeared himself to fans by describing their team as "the people's club".
His willingness to work to tight financial constraints made him a perfect fit at Goodison Park, but at United, one of the world's richest clubs, he will discover a vastly different set of priorities.
"If it is David Moyes, then I congratulate him and feel sorry for him," said former United manager Tommy Docherty before Thursday's annoucement.
"How can you follow the impossible?"