As for most privileged Reds of Generation X and Z, Fergie is all I’ve ever really known. Whilst in the deepest recesses of my subconscious rests Big Ron, Fergie is the only footballing face of authority I’ve ever really recognized. This has rendered a significant number of younger United fans extremely anxious, constantly questioning and treating this new person at the helm with caution, suspicion even. He’s wholly unfamiliar, and a lot of Reds evidently aren’t comfortable with the novelty.
So I decided to further familiarize ourselves with the man known as David Moyes, or Moyesey if you’re feeling playful.
They say the best predictor of the future is the past. So I deemed it appropriate to procure some informed insights from a triumvirate of lifelong, matchgoing Evertonians, who weighed in on all things David Moyes, including his tenure at Goodison Park and his first half-season at Old Trafford. Furthermore, it’s always refreshing to acquire the thoughts of those emotionally-detached from MUFC to establish an alternative perspective.
Whilst presenting a broad spectrum of vastly-diverging opinions on Mr Moyes (some unequivocally anti-Moyes, some more well-balanced, and some decidedly pro-Moyes,) which may not necessarily serve to quash some Reds’ reservations, I personally was able to take away several things away from the following responses.
Trio of interviewees;
1. Dan (@dan0956): Born Sept ’78, first visit to Goodison ‘87
2. Alex (@thebrand29): Born March ’85, first visit to Goodison ’91, when Neville Southall didn’t go in the dressing room at half time when we were loosing 2-0 to Leeds and sat by the goalpost!
3. Ol (@OLeyland): Born Nov ’82, first visit to Goodison ‘91
Jonathan: In a couple of sentences, try and sum up your general impression of David Moyes’ tenure at Everton?
Dan: I believe Moyes was very clever at Everton, in that he had the majority fooled that he was doing a good job. But Everton have always been a big club; we had a 10-year bad spell and it just so happened that we got a new chairman and £30million for Rooney, and Moyes was the manager that was lucky enough to inherit that. Moyes did a good job for the first 5 years at Everton, but his last 6 were filled with disappointment.
Alex: There was a big buzz when DM took control of the club, he spoke well and transformed the club and we needed it because he kept us from being relegated that year! He always handled himself well and gave a good image of the club. He bought well in transfer markets on a budget. He was always a cautious man and sometimes it felt he was setting out his team not to lose as opposed to win. He did an excellent job, but failed to take Everton that step further by not getting a trophy or finish in the top 4 on more than 1 occasion.
Ol: DM made Everton credible again. He rebuilt us into a team that supporters were proud to follow, after a period of mismanagement (Peter Johnston chairmanship, managers including Mike Walker, Howard Kendall’s 3rd spell, the ‘Dogs of War’, Walter Smith). He slowly got us playing decent football again (Osman, Pienaar, Arteta), and importantly had a British core to the side (Rooney, Lescott, Jagielka, Osman). Arguably nothing to show for it, but then the same is true for Arsenal for the past 8 years.
Jonathan: There are vastly-differing opinions on whether Moyes overachieved, underachieved, or performed steadily during his reign at Everton? Please explain reason(s) for your opinion.
Dan: He under-achieved; we won no trophies, and had 4/5 games that were massive in which we lost due to bad tactics. An FA Cup Final, semi-final and champions league qualifier, and a Europa Cup tie spring to mind.
Alex: A mixture of all 3! We overachieved in 2005 by qualifying for the Champions League, but then never got into the Group stages and also were knocked out of the Europa cup. He underachieved by not delivering a trophy in 11 years, but made us steady and consistent in that we have been an ever present in the top 10 of the Premier League for the last 7 years. If I had to choose one; he overachieved looking at the 11-year history and where we started.
Ol: Steady overachievement, without ever the tangible success. Stability in the top 6/7 is per se an achievement I think.
Jonathan: From Moyes’ time at EFC, how would you assess his capability in the following categories;
A. Style of play
Dan: Style of play was poor, would play a high tempo which worked sometimes against good times at home but failed away. We never won one away game against the “big 4″ in 11 seasons or 40+ games
Alex: The style of passing play improved at Everton over the years thanks to the quality of player improving; Pienaar, Arteta. The style was always to have a strong defensive unit; which he built at Everton and will at United given time. We were always fit and worked hard as a team.
Ol: Evolved from nondescript to passing, though I always felt frustrated at the use of only one striker. Fellaini and Cahill are limited players technically and harked back to the Duncan Ferguson long ball style. His choice of attackers generally was not great – name one great striker he bought? Beattie, Johnson, Yakubu were all record signings but none really did the biz.
Dan: See above
Alex: He is a cautious manager.
Ol: ‘doing the best we can given the constraints’. But very much a club man – never criticized his own. Honest and fair.
C. Adaptability during matches
Dan: His biggest flaw – he is unable to change a game, he’s lacking tactical ability, he has no plan B. He will often watch a game and wait for it to go wrong before trying to do something about it.
Example; we would be 0-0 at home and getting battered. He would wait till we go 0-1 behind before changing things. A good manager would foresee the problem and act beforehand.
Alex: Terrible. With substitutes we were too predictable and too reactive; we would have to wait until we had gone behind to go more attacking.
Dan: He does not handle players well, he has bad methods, players don’t agree and he bumps them off very, very quickly. He’s stubborn, aggressive and not a popular man.
Alex: Mixed; he clearly had his favourites that he felt he could rely on (Hibbert, Jagielka, Osman, Cahill etc), but seemed unwilling to give youth a chance. The emergence of Ross Barkley this year has been astonishing, but begs the question; why did Moyes not start him in his final year and was instead loaned out twice? One of the biggest disappointments from an Everton perspective was his treatment of Wayne Rooney. Moyes being Everton manager would have played a big part in Rooney deciding to leave Goodison. I was not surprised by his actions at the end of last season/pre-season when he heard Moyes would be taking over at Old Trafford.
The man management of strikers over the years has been awful. The strategy was to run them into the ground; working hard so they were never in the right position when we had the ball. He also has this strange desire to play strikers on the right wing (Andy Johnson, Victor Anichebe).
Ol: Very good, with the exception of Rooney, perhaps.
E. Scouting/Signing Players
Dan: Very 50/50. He would often take players on loan to see if they fit before signing them permanently. Case in point being Arteta – he won’t be able to do this at United. He did uncover some gems for our level (e.g. Cahill,) but he is unable to bring in top, top players, which is what is needed at United.
Alex: Excellent overall – the list is endless on the amount of players that were brought in with next to no money to spend. Tim Cahill (£1.5m), Seamus Coleman (£600k), Leighton Baines (£5m), Phil Jagielka (£4m), Mikel Arteta (£2m). However, he made some poor decisions (as all managers do); Andy Van der Meyde and Per Krøldrup were utter disasters. I don’t feel that we ever had a true goal scorer despite spending big money on; James Beattie, Andy Johnson, Yakubu etc. I think this proves that he has done well on a budget, but has struggled when it comes to spending big money (big money for Everton!)
Ol: great at finding bargains – PNev, Howard, Cahill, Lescott, Jags, Coleman, Donovan. Not as good when given a bit o cash – see above strikers.
F. Selection of Backroom staff
Alex: Mixed; it did seem that he surrounded himself with “yes” men, I wasn’t surprised when most of the staff decided to leave to go to Old Trafford because they are very loyal to him. Chris Woods did an excellent job with Tim Howard and made him a good steady performer. Alan Irvine was a great assistant manager – I was always very impressed with him. Steve Round didn’t really warm to the Everton fans during his time. The scouting system was excellent.
G. Cultivating a rapport with the fans/media/chairman
Dan: He plays to that. He tries to get the fans on the side to cover up his inadequacies, but people can see through it. Take last night for example, Sunderland beat united 2-1 and all Moyes could talk about was how the fans sang his name and are on his side. But what about all the fans phoning up and on twitter?! Propaganda, me thinks.
Alex: Impressive overall. The relationship with the fans was always strong, and he was clearly best mates with Bill Kenwright. Overall he came across well with the media, and he was always very honest.
Jonathan: Scottish connection aside, were you surprised to discover that he’d been selected to succeed Fergie? From a United perspective, would you have preferred another manager? Do you think he was the right man for the role, and does he have what it takes?
Dan: I laughed, as you know, when Moyes went to United, because I’ve been slagging him off for 6 years. At Everton, the vocal fans are quite young and were brought up during this 10-year bad spell (in which we still won an FA Cup in ‘95) so they just associated Everton with that. But the older fan knows how big the club is and how important it is. It was 50/50 split on Moyes but the vocal fans were on his side. Personally I knew as soon as Moyes went to United it was a disaster for United. Didn’t I text you the day of the appointment and concede the title on your behalf?! I wasn’t joking – I know the man.
Alex: Yes, because he never won anything at Goodison. Length of service and stability is an important factor when picking a manager – this is what made United so successful under Ferguson and the main reason Moyes was selected. This is an impossible job to replicate, United’s success over the last 20 years has been astonishing, and it is going to be hard to maintain this level of success and I feel any manager that you picked you would never feel could live up to Sir Alex. It’s Mourinho who would win things but would turn the club upside down in the process. Perhaps Pep Guardiola would have been a clever/bold move.
Ol: Not that surprised, but a little given lack of trophies and top-level experience with top players. I was glad to see United stay British and totally understand the choice, though that may mean less short-term success than Mourinho might have got.
Jonathan: Do you believe he did the right thing by bringing most of his back room staff with him from Everton?
Dan: Loyalty to his staff, but not to his players? Seems strange – that doesn’t surprise me but he should have kept some United people around who knew the club. I don’t think you can blame the backroom staff for the current situation. They just follow Moyes’ orders. But they are hardly qualified.
Alex: I think he should have blended the two to make it an easier transition. I felt you had some excellent coaches at United that have gone. On a separate matter, he should have selected either Giggs or Neville as a coach, but not both. Both are trying to learn their craft and it’s too much pressure on them too early in their coaching career.
Ol: Not really.
Jonathan: Do you read much into the rumours that United players have found his training methods to be outdated?
Dan: I 100% know this and I 100% believe it to be true. Moyes has always focused on fitness rather than ball work. A lot of people at Everton had issues with his training – hence poor start to season every year.
Alex: This is very hard to tell from an outsider looking in. I know Moyes makes the players work hard, and to be as fit as possible.
Ol: A bit surprised.
Jonathan: How do you evaluate his first half-season in charge at Old Trafford, both on- and off-the-field?
Dan: As expected.
Alex: Off the field – Poor. Keeping hold of Rooney was a plus, but only getting Fellaini in the summer would have been a big disappointment. On the field – Poor. The results, especially, at Old Trafford haven’t been good enough.
Ol: Clearly disappointing. Yes, the squad needs improving and SAF got a lot out of limited players like Cleverley, Welbeck, Valencia, Evans, but Moyes had a whole summer. Stylistically the play is really poor and the Fellaini signing was awful – great biz for us. Not worth 10m. Adds nothing, and Everton are better off without him by a mile. That said, there are glimmers of hope like the Leverkusen results.
Jonathan: Is Moyes doing it his way at OT? Or is he trying to adhere to MUFC philosophy and failing?
Dan: He’s trying to do it his way, which is clearly not good enough. He’s stubborn
Jonathan: His signing of Fellaini. Rushed? Stopgap? Surprising to you? Will Marouanne eventually prove a valuable asset to MUFC?
Dan: Overrated slogger – not good enough for united. Barely good enough for Everton. Panic buy.
Alex: I think the key for me is the fact that he had a cheaper buyout clause in his contract that expired weeks before you bought him. Therefore, it looks rushed and like it was a plan B. Fellaini was a good player in big games for Everton but was too inconsistent against the teams lower down the league. Overall he was playing poor for EFC for over a year up to the point when we sold him and his form has continued for United. Initially when Fellaini joined EFC he looked lost, laboured and average – similar to his performance at present. His best performances came when he was playing behind the striker (interestingly a position he doesn’t like!) – it’s unlikely that you will play him in this position – so I fear he may be a disappointment, unless he successfully adapts his game.
Ol: See above. Horrible signing first up for DM. no, he’s awful.
Jonathan: Moving forward, how do you feel Moyes can improve the current lack of form/consistency?
Dan: A leopard doesn’t change its spots, he is tactically inept, that can’t change.
Alex: Initially some good fortune! Something small can change the whole team’s outlook, perhaps a mistake by another team or a miss hit shot going in the back of the net. A settled side would help, that has 8/9 players playing most weeks – at present I don’t think he knows his best side. Confidence – he needs to inspire both the fans and players, as this builds he will let this run and the results will come (Everton always used to have a strong end to the season).
Ol: Needs RVP, Wazza back
Jonathan: Do you attribute any blame to Moyes for shambolic summer transfer window when he arrived? Do you believe he wants to sign in the January transfer window? Do you believe he’ll be given the funds to do so?
Dan: He can’t blame the board. He was known as “Dithering Davey” at Everton – often wanting 50 reports on a player before he buys them.
Alex: He has to take some blame because they were his targets but it’s clear that two new faces at the top of the football club in the same year was probably not a wise move. He needs the funds to rebuild the squad (and make it his squad) – from what I have read/heard he will get the backing to go spend.
Ol: It was poor of the club to change CEO at the same time. I think DM needs to change mentality – he’s no longer at a club with limited resources and a need to sign loans. He’s a big boy now – but not sure he gets that yet.
Jonathan: We’ve been repeatedly linked to Baines; a worthwhile acquisition for United?
Dan: He won’t improve the side – good player but when a team is so badly managed a new left back won’t fix things.
Alex: I don’t think this is going to happen. The price you are willing to pay (£12m) and the price we will let him go (£20m) seem too far apart. I also think Kenwright/Martinez would lose too much credibility letting Baines go. He is an excellent left back and we have had his best years – he’s 29 now. If I were DM I’d be looking for the next Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw has been heavily linked recently.
Ol: Top player – love him. Getting on a bit, but yes, especially given Evra is past it. Great guy too – the sort you want at your club.
Jonathan: Do you think he deserves time to prove himself either way at MUFC? Do you believe he’ll be awarded that time?
Alex: Yes – it would have been a long, thought-out decision to appoint Moyes. You need to give him the funds and time to let him prove himself, chopping and changing manager is never a recipe for success – look at Chelsea! I fear he won’t be given the time because of the owners at United and the business model. United need to have success on this pitch to fund debt/shareholders! If money dries up because of poor performance I think the owners will pull the trigger. I can see him being there for 2 years.
Ol: Yes and yes
Jonathan: From what you’ve seen/read/heard, how do you perceive and assess MUFC fans’ reactions to Moyes?
Dan: Fans at game sing his name, but Twitter, radio phone ins etc.. have a lot of anger towards him.
Alex: Completely mixed – some are willing to do the right thing and give him time. Others are calling for his head before he has had a long enough time to prove himself.
Ol: Not really sure. Some are clueless and too used to success –football is cyclical and MUFC are competing with big spenders. SAF knew his team were limited last year. This will be a test of MUFC fans’ loyalty and whether they really get it.
Jonathan: Ultimately, do you think Moyes will be a success story at MUFC?
Alex: If he is given time – yes. But how do you quantify success? It is going to be close to impossible to have the amount of dominance you have had for the last 20 years. I do think he will win trophies for United, but instead of doing the treble, you may win one trophy every other year. This might not be enough to keep United fans happy, I don’t think he’ll get long enough to build his squad, so I don’t think it will be a success.
Ol: Sadly not from evidence thus far. He’s a bit too cautious.
Jonathan: Finally, is there anything you’ve ever read/seen on Moyes (could literally be anything; video, picture, article, forum post) which you believe provides a good insight into the man and his ability?
Alex: At the moment he looks scared and hugely under pressure – hence why he is spending a significant period of time concentrating on refereeing decisions. He needs to concentrate on what is in his control – putting in a performance on the pitch.
I’ve listened to him talk a few times, and there is no doubting that he is hard working and thorough in his work. Some of the stories I have heard from the training ground is it’s very much his way or the highway.
Many thanks to Dan, Alex and Ol for their time. Tweet them @dan0956 @thebrand29 and @OLeyland if you wish to probe them further on Moyes’ tenure at Goodison Park, and how it may inform his future at United.