David Moyes is The Chosen One once more. Significantly, this time it is not Sir Alex Ferguson doing the choosing, and this time when Moyes takes to the dugout he will not be operating under Ferguson’s shadow. When Moyes sets foot on the turf at the Anoeta Stadium for the first time, he will do so as a man trying to surmount a considerable task, but he will do so as his own man once again. Real Sociedad have used all of their guts to employ a man who wilted at Manchester United, and it will be fascinating to see if the Scot can repay their faith.
The latest sporting craze to take social media by the horns revolves around a series of interviews given by a particularly irate and characterful Manchester United fan by the name of Andy Tate. Tate berates Moyes for his tactical deficiencies, for his inability to inspire passion, for not being Pep Guardiola. These interviews have yielded sound bites interspersed in Vine form into elements of popular culture, and are genuinely worth your perusal (hunt down @AndyTate_Vines on Twitter and wave goodbye to your plans for the day.) Perhaps the most enduring line is where Tate utters the phrase “I’m sorry to say again it’s Moyesie”.
A succinct phrase that encapsulates Moyes’ fateful reign in charge of Manchester United, the problem was that far too frequently the manager did seem to be the problem. His interactions with the press were redolent of an awkward teenager confronting their crush for the first time; unsure of himself and overwhelmed by his situation, Moyes could not string the right words together. There was never a sense that Moyes was talking about his club, but rather conversed like a man speaking as someone lucky enough to even be allowed near the reigning English champions. Comfortably admitting that Manchester City were the bigger club? Perceiving Liverpool as favourites for an encounter? Whatever elements of truth reverberated in these statements, truth that still echoes now, Moyes should have been streetwise enough to know that trouble beckons for the openly broken man, that football is a cruel sport unafraid of kicking a man when he is down – just ask Pepe.
Moyes, simply by virtue of not being Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, was fighting a losing battle from the outset, a characteristic that incidentally harks back to a number of Manchester United games during Moyes’ tenure in which they never found second gear. Yet Moyes did little to dissuade fans’ concerns with his turgid play and tired demeanour. Some Manchester United fans preferred the charismatic and pragmatic Mourinho as heir to Ferguson; other commentators would have gone with Pep Guardiola, because at least he would have brought a Barca style of play. But no matter, for Real Sociedad demarcates the beginning of a brave new chapter for the Scotsman. Falling from a Champions League appearance last season to a current lowly league position of 15th, Moyes has his hands full from a purely footballing perspective. Adapting to the culture and language only exacerbates the difficulties that he will face. Not only is this appointment a huge call for the manager, but it is a ballsy one from the club too. Moyes needs to correct his repeated mistake from his previous post; he needs to act like he belongs at a club like Real Sociedad, and his immediate denunciation of the Premier League being weaker than La Liga will undeniably do his introduction into Spanish football no harm.
From strong centre-back Iñigo Martínez to the cultured midfielder Xabi Prieto, there is quality in a Sociedad side that offers former Arsenal starlet Carlos Vela as the pick of the bunch. At Everton, Moyes created a squad with a solid base of consistent Premier League performers, adding a pinch of flair but leaving impressive team chemistry as the notable aftertaste. At Manchester United, Moyes struggled to adapt to the pressures that arise with bigger budgets and bigger expectations. The Marouane Fellaini transfer saga that resulted in his eventual signing for a bloated fee was a misjudgement on the scale of commissioning a Dapper Laughs television show, with the Belgian’s performances certainly being the greater source of comedy.
That man Andy Tate, in his most uninhibited rage, declared David Moyes as “nothing”, as a “fool”, as a “waste of time”. Certainly some of Manchester United’s performances were drowning in insipidity, while fans who were not used to such mediocrity resorted to drowning their sorrows to forget miserable home defeats. But when Moyes pulled on an Everton raincoat, he weathered all storms he faced and was regarded as one of the most respectable Premier League managers. One bad season does not maketh a bad manager. If Moyes can tap in to whatever magic he was conjuring at Everton, if he can bring it all back like S Club 7 so cheerily advised, then there is no reason to think that Real Sociedad cannot become established as a fixture in the higher reaches of La Liga. Mistakes in Manchester have eclipsed shrewd acquisitions made at Everton. The bizarre splurge on the gratuitous Juan Mata was atypical of a man who integrated players seamlessly into the Everton system, players such as Tim Cahill, Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar who elevated their status to top-end Premier League players under Moyes’ guidance. If Moyes can supplement the Sociedad squad with his keen eye for talent, then soon his doubters will once again admit that, contrary to the popular meme, he is a man who has an idea of what he is doing.
Who is that man with a respectable track record who is courageous enough to take on another imposing managerial position? I’m not sorry to say again it’s Moyesie.