Manchester United chose an unglamorous coach to take over from the 71-year-old Ferguson, seeking long-term success by awarding Moyes a six-year contract on Thursday.
Moyes and Ferguson come from identical backgrounds and were raised on the tough streets of Scotland. Both have reputations for enjoying confrontation and strong discipline.
Moyes will arrive from Everton, never having won a trophy there, to take over the reins on July 1 of a United side fresh from its 13th Premier League title under Ferguson.
And as with everything else at United, the retiring Ferguson played a key role in the decision, recommending his fellow Scot to build on the foundations for success he has laid at Old Trafford since 1986.
"I am delighted that Sir Alex saw fit to recommend me for the job," Moyes said in a statement. "I have great respect for everything he has done and for the football club."
After 11 years at Everton operating on a modest budget, the 50-year-old Moyes has been given a chance to prove he can cut it at the highest level by filling the shoes of a manager who has produced nearly 50 trophies for United.
"I know how hard it will be to follow the best manager ever," Moyes said. "But the opportunity to manage Manchester United isn't something that comes around very often."
United has shown its confidence in Moyes, who, like Ferguson, has a keen eye for emerging talent, snubbing more famous coaches like Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid.
"We have secured a man who is committed to the long-term and will build teams for the future as well as now," said former United striker Bobby Charlton, a club director. "Stability breeds success. David has tremendous strength of character and recognizes the importance of bringing young players through and developing them alongside world-class talent.
"At United, I think David will be able to express himself."
United has looked at how Moyes has kept Everton in the upper echelons of the Premier League without spending heavily rather than his lack of silverware.
"When we discussed the candidates that we felt had the right attributes we unanimously agreed on David Moyes," Ferguson said. "David is a man of great integrity with a strong work ethic."
The former Celtic player made the transition into management at Preston North End in 1998 and gained promotion to the League Championship two years later.
He moved to Everton in 2002 and turned the Merseyside club from a relegation contender into a regular qualifier for Europe. In 2005, he even guided the club into the qualifying rounds of the Champions League.
Qualifying for the Champions League every year and maintaining United as a force in global football is a must for the Glazer family owners. The Americans need to ensure that the club, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, can service debts that stood at 367.6 million pounds ($572 million) in the latest financial report.
"His hard-working style and steely determination are characteristics we value at the club," co-chairman Joel Glazer said of Moyes. "He has impressed as a coach for many years now and we strongly believe he will be able to take up from where Alex is leaving off by continuing this club's tradition of flair football played by exciting, world class players."
Moyes has never had the chance to operate on a big budget, having to sell top talent — including Wayne Rooney to United in 2004 — when offers proved too hard to resist for Everton's owners.
"He won't have to sell players, it must be like being a kid in a candy shop for somebody like David Moyes, who's had to work within constraints," former United defender Gary Pallister said.
Even before Ferguson announced his retirement plans, Rooney told the manager two weeks ago that he wanted to seek a fresh challenge away from the club.
But with two years remaining on the striker's contract, United stressed that "Rooney is not for sale."
Moyes' first games in charge will be on the preseason tour of Thailand, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong in July.