Clouds of doubt gather over David Moyes

Manchester United manager under pressure to get result against Newcastle United





Manchester United manager David Moyes and Everton manager Roberto Martinez during the Premier League game at Old Trafford on Wednesday. Everton won 1-0. 



Photograph: Reuters.

Manchester United manager David Moyes and Everton manager Roberto Martinez during the Premier League game at Old Trafford on Wednesday. Everton won 1-0. Photograph: Reuters.

 

In the 10 full seasons before David Moyes succeeded Walter Smith at Goodison Park in March 2002, these were Everton’s finishing league positions: 16th, 13th, 14th, 17th, 15th, 6th, 15th, 17th, 13th and 12th. In the 10 full seasons that followed Moyes’s appointment, here are Everton’s finishes: 7th, 17th, 4th, 11th, 6th, 5th, 5th, 8th, 7th, 7th. In his 11th season – concluding last May, Everton came 6th, losing once at home in the league all season.

If we include Smith’s final season, when Moyes arrived with nine games to go, one top-10 finish in 11 seasons had been replaced by nine top-10 finishes in 11 seasons. No wonder Alex Ferguson thinks Moyes a good manager.

Invested beyond means
During Moyes’s time at Everton, Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea, Abu Dhabi bought Manchester City, Liverpool were bought twice and paid €40 million for Andy Carroll, Newcastle United invested beyond their means, Aston Villa had a go under Randy Lerner, Tottenham kept spending and of course, Arsenal and Manchester United had year upon year of Champions League income – and the rest.

Everton’s four biggest signings under Moyes were Marouane Fellaini (€18m), Yakubu Aiyegbeni (€14m), Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (€11m) and Andrew Johnson (€10m) – total €51m. His four biggest sales were Wayne Rooney (€32m), Joleon Lescott (€27m), Jack Rodwell (€18m) and Johnson (€13m) – total €90m.

Moyes operated on an austerity budget. Despite Everton not winning anything, Moyes was voted manager of the year three times. His peers understood his circumstances. There are reasons why David Moyes convinced people he is a good manager. It’s not an invention.

That does not mean he was or is immune to mistakes. He signed Per Koldrup and caused anxiety at times among Everton’s fanbase with caution. There was that uncomfortable home defeat by Roberto Martinez’ Wigan Athletic in the sixth round of last season’s FA Cup. It was 3-0 at half-time; Wigan got Millwall in the semi-final. So there were some what-ifs about Moyes at Everton.

But they represented a dot on the horizon for Ferguson when he chose his successor. They will remain so, regardless of Wednesday night at Old Trafford, when Everton did something they could not do under Moyes – win at Old Trafford.

Moyes looked to have handled it with equanimity afterwards but the personal impact must have been immense. Barely six months after a rapturous and sincere farewell at Goodison, he was being goaded by the travelling support from Merseyside whilst knowing simultaneously that his new support will have been feeling doubt.


Just a joke
“David Moyes has just resigned.” Ryan Giggs said that to Ferguson in the dressingroom at West Brom on the last day of last season – following that comical 5-5 draw in Ferguson’s 1,500th United game – but that was just a joke about United’s defending.

More tellingly, the night before, Ferguson recalls in his new autobiography, the players had made him a goodbye presentation and as he scanned the room, he noted “a particular look on some of the players’ faces. It was a moment some weren’t sure how to handle because they had always had me with them; some for 20 years. I could see a vacant expression that seemed to say: what’s it going to be like now?”

It was the dreaded succession question and it will hang in the air throughout this season, and maybe next.

The previous Wednesday, when United won 5-0 at Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, doubt was rather less audible. But after Bryan Oviedo scored that late goal at Old Trafford, questions about Moyes’s suitability to succeed Ferguson were restated.

Those in red worrying about Moyes may not be soothed by the fact that Oviedo was one of eight in the Everton team signed by Moyes, as opposed to one of the United team – Fellaini. Their view might be that Moyes inherited the champions of England, who finished 26 points above his Everton in May.

On top of that, they may have observed in Everton a step-change in style under Martinez that they are yet to see in United under Moyes. That comparison is damaging to the Scot, perhaps as much as the 12-point gap to Arsenal.

Despite drawing the first three league games under Martinez, the succession at Goodison has progressed to acceptance more quickly than in Manchester. There had been doubt there too, after all Wigan were relegated last season and Martinez signed four of their team.

But United’s clumsy pursuit of Fellaini and Leighton Baines has aided Martinez, as has Everton’s play. “From the sidelines all we could hear was the manager telling us to keep getting on the ball, and that was when we were 1-0 up,” said Seamus Coleman on Wednesday.

History written
The positives outweigh the negatives when it comes to Martinez. For Moyes it is the opposite and today he faces Newcastle without suspended Wayne Rooney and possibly, again, Robin van Persie.

Newcastle have not won this fixture since 1972, when “Hallelujah” John Tudor scored for the Geordies. Everton had not won it since 1992. History has been written once at Old Trafford this week, David Moyes cannot afford to have it done twice. It is a subject he knows about. Look at his record.


Is it worth it? Brazil’s World Cup coming with a high cost
This seems an appropriate moment to recall the words of Brazil great Socrates the day before the 2010 South Africa World Cup began.

Speaking at a primary school in Soweto, Socrates looked forward to the tournament and to 2014’s and said: “Football can change reality.

“This matters to us in Brazil because we have a lot of social problems. But it takes time. Here the rich are white, the poor are black and that’s a problem you can’t change with one World Cup.

“Mandela was the start of change here and the World Cup can accelerate the process. But it can also halt the process. A lot of money has been spent on new stadiums when it could have been spent on other things. It’s not necessary to build new stadiums.”

Socrates was angry. He did not like corporate Fifa and their diktats. “Fifa is money,” he said.

He was not alone. There were those “FICK FUFA” stickers on lamp-posts in Johannesburg. All across South Africa there was angst about the economic cost of staging the World Cup.

But Fifa ploughed on. They imposed construction costs and timetables on Brazil that have seen two men die in Sao Paulo this week. Socrates is gone but we can ask Fifa on his behalf: what did those men die for?

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