Out walked David Moyes from the Goodison Park tunnel to raucous roars from the home crowd and applause from Everton and West Ham United players, who had formed a guard of honour for him. Similar scenes were unfolding at Old Trafford, where Sir Alex Ferguson was being given a send-off by Manchester United faithful. A few weeks later, photos would emerge of a smiling Moyes standing at the touchline of Old Trafford, leaning with one hand beside a large Manchester United crest.
The smile would not last long. In fact, it disappeared just as quickly as the ‘Chosen One’ posters did from Old Trafford terraces. The first sign of what was coming was when Moyes left every single fan of the club scratching their heads after saying, “The top of the table will sort itself out.” The statement was made after a 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur in December, 2013. It could mean a) that every year the Premier League table just sorts itself out and Manchester United come out somewhere in the top three or b) that Moyes is telling the fans, don’t look that high up the table, those squabbling clubs will sort themselves out, we have our own issues to take care of. Manchester United’s glory years were under two Scottish managers. David Moyes was not one of them and that was made amply clear in that one year.
Until he arrived at Old Trafford, Moyes was a name that somewhat signified stability and discipline. Sure there were a few troughs but his 13 years at Everton were mostly about consistency. He seemed to be trying to do the same thing at Manchester United and one could say that he succeeded. United’s position in the league by the end of the season was seventh. It was a fantastic position to finish in, if you are an Everton manager. Unfortunately for Moyes, Manchester United’s ambitions were a tiny bit bigger than just trying for a Europa League spot. For the 20-time champions of England, that has been the start of a seemingly endless road to reclaiming the hegemony they enjoyed in the league and Europe for more than two decades under Ferguson. Moyes’ time with United ended, ironically, after they were schooled by Everton at Goodison Park and lost 2-0.
If things have been bad for United, they have been made to look good by how Moyes has stumbled through his following assignments. In his defence, it may be a bit unfair to say that about his tenure as Real Sociedad manager. He was, after all, a British manager in Spain, a role that only the great Sir Bobby Robson had been able to execute with sheer finesse. He was appointed in November 2014 and lasted the season. He was generally well received but there was always a tipping point waiting around the corner. That corner came closer when La Real got off to a bad start to the 2015-16 season. It arrived when they meekly surrendered 2-0 to Las Palmas, who, on paper, were worse off than them. Sociedad didn’t allow Moyes to stay when they saw that the club could not sustain his management.
That is something that Sunderland didn’t do. Moyes returned to England and went to a club that had been ‘Great Escaping’ relegation from the Premier League for an admirably long period. They did so first under Gus Poyet, then Dick Advocaat and finally Sam Allardyce. Following Alladaryce’s exit after an incredibly short, and just as eventful, tenure as England manager, Moyes was brought in. He brought in a number of players from his days as Manchester United and Everton manager. The season started badly but CEO Martin Bain insisted that Moyes was a “builder” and he was in this club to “build, to rebuild really.”
For the next couple of months, optimistic fans may have been believing that this rebuilding was being done behind the scenes. Maybe Moyes was hiding a budding young set of players raring to break into the first team, somewhat like what the so called Class of 92 did in his former club Manchester United. But while the term ‘uncertainty’ meant winning or not winning the league for Manchester United at the time, it meant staying or not staying in the league for Sunderland. What was worse for Moyes was that there was no David Beckham or Ryan Giggs waiting to burst into the scene, score goals from the midfield and leave everybody in awe. Instead, there was talk of Sunderland starting to look like a good contender to break Derby County’s record for least number of league wins in a season. Luckily got him and the club, that never happened. Derby County managed one win in their 2007-08 Premier League nightmare. Sunderland had six wins under David Moyes. He left with prominent players Jermain Defoe all but openly criticising him.
Earlier in the year, Moyes’ name cropped up as one of the potential replacements for Ronald Koeman at Everton. If Carlo Ancelotti returned to AC Milan, or Sir Alex Ferguson decided to come out of retirement to teach these United players a lesson, they would both probably be received warmly by the respective clubs’ fans. In Moyes’ case though, an overwhelming majority of the Everton fans preferred to stick with Koeman rather than have the Scot back on their touchline.
Which is what makes his recent appointment as West Ham United manager a strange one. West Ham are a fractured club. The fans don’t like how the team is playing and the players don’t seem to be interested in playing at all, particularly the defenders. Everybody hates that monstrosity of a stadium. Even Usain Bolt walked out of it limping. It is this club that Moyes has been tasked to be at the helm of. They are not looking as bad as Sunderland were last season but that, by no means, would be comforting for West Ham, or any club in any league for that matter.