David Moyes’ death stare won’t freeze out the critics now
The smallest incidents at Old Trafford will be magnified and dramatised
As David Moyes takes over at Manchester Unted, he faces a whole different world at Old Trafford from that he faced at Goodison Park. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images
Today is David Moyes’s first day at work as the manager of Manchester United. You imagine he must be feeling a childish thrill of anticipation at what the future has in store. He could be cast in bronze or have a stand named after him. He could be sacked by Christmas. Everything is possible.
The most probable outcome is Moyes’s performance will be somewhere between the poles of glory and disgrace - but that’s not necessarily how his tale will be told.
Of all the headlines you could imagine written about Manchester United next season, “Moyes does competent job of steering mega-superclub through mildly choppy waters” might be the most unlikely.
Things were different in his old job. I remember being in the press room at Goodison Park one dreary December evening after Everton had lost 1-0 to Stoke. Everton’s inept efforts had irritated their supporters, it was an occasion to deflate anyone’s spirits.
Moyes sat down and coldly regarded the small group of journalists, his forbidding bearing only slightly undercut by the fact he was seated at a tiny table that looked like it belonged in a primary school classroom.
The defeat had been Everton’s seventh in 10 matches. I waited to see what kind of inquest would unfold. To my surprise, nobody asked why Everton had played so badly. When one journalist ventured a slightly awkward question, Moyes gave him a two-second death stare and replied “I think those who come here regularly would know the answer to that.”
The whole thing was over in a couple of minutes.
At the time, Moyes was being criticised on Everton fan sites, but the disgruntlement had not been reflected in media coverage. Watching Moyes’s interaction with the press that evening helped to explain why.
It wasn’t that the Everton manager was friendly with every member of the regular Goodison press corps, neither was it he was terrifying them into silence. It was plain, however, he knew who they were and understood the dynamics of their group.
Mere recognition might not seem like a big deal, but it is a form of respect which some people are naturally reluctant to repay with criticism.
Then there is the simple fact few beat reporters want to fall out with the people they have to cover as part of their job, especially when the group of reporters they are part of is relatively small. On the messageboards you could find plenty of fans complaining bitterly about Moyes, but they didn’t then have to sit in the same room as him the following week.