David Moyes is proof that, for all the certainty of cancel culture, there can be a way back. Modern football is ever-evolving; it moves at a pace which demands those involved keep up. But there are plenty of ideas of what constitutes a successful football coach which have been peddled over the past decade or so, which have left managers like Moyes scrambling to stay relevant.
In 2013, he was at the peak of his powers. Moyes was maintaining Everton’s regular push for Europe, only fleetingly dropping out of the top half during his 11-year reign at Goodison Park, on a tight budget. His consistency made him the envy of almost everyone he opposed, the dream for almost any chairman and the reason Sir Alex Ferguson bestowed upon the honour of replacing him as Manchester United manager after 27 years
Alongside Ferguson and Wenger, he was viewed as a last bastion of a bygone era which made English football so attractive overseas, where time was a given and ideas could be developed into philosophies. Moyes was considered one of the best in Europe and it became clear that if he were to leave Everton, it would be on his terms.
But at Manchester United, everything he’d worked for crashed and burnt around him. He signed a six-year contract but didn’t last one, let go with the club’s 13th Premier League title defence in tatters and the course set towards their worst finish in the division since its formation in 1992. The logic behind Ferguson’s choice was clear. Moyes reminded him of himself.
His work at Aberdeen had provided a platform and, with time, he built something and Everton mirrored that but Moyes didn’t get time. He’s since said that he tried to manage the club with a long-term vision, owing to his contract but, at Manchester United, the trick is to plan and win. He didn’t do either in the end.
Ferguson distanced himself from his decision, suggesting other options weren’t available. Jose Mourinho headed back to Chelsea, Carlo Ancelotti for Real Madrid and Pep Guardiola to Bayern Munich all at the same time. But the job was too big for Moyes and it is important to remember that he failed and why.
His strength was punching above his weight with shrewd business and tactics, maintaining a family feel at Everton was crucial. But Manchester United are a global brand and acting like it is a prerequisite; setting the standard is vital, and Moyes didn’t think big enough.
Rio Ferdinand tells a story of how Moyes showed him a video of Phil Jagielka in training. When his side were knocked out of the Champions League to Bayern Munich, he said it was an achievement to make it that far. Support for him was almost nonexistent by the end.
His reputation needed mending, not rebuilding but a spell at Real Sociedad did little to halt his slide. As was so often the case with British players and managers abroad, Moyes became a figure of ridicule for his poor grasp of Spanish. It was his season at Sunderland in 2016/17 which was his lowest ebb and biggest regret; the club were relegated and have not returned to the Premier League since. There was admittance that would happen after two games, and fans still accuse him of absolving responsibility.
Moyes was thrown on the scrap heap; dismissed as past his best and uninspiring, without a tactical identity to speak of and behind the times. West Ham hired him as a safe pair of hands on a short-term contract and there was a collective groan; like Alan Pardew, Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis, Moyes was seen as part of a group of managers who always got jobs undeservedly.
But after the Hammers sacked him and moved for Manuel Pellegrini, a big name with a CV that boasted a Premier League title with Manchester City, only for things to turn sour, they returned for him. Since then, he has begun to recover.
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