How times change for David Moyes

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Sir Alex Ferguson © Wikipedia/Creative Commons; David Moyes © Trinity Mirror

It seemed such a good idea at the time… Sir Alex Ferguson (© Wikipedia/Creative Commons) handed over to David Moyes (© Trinity Mirror)

The landscape of football changed last year when David Moyes strode into Goodison Park for the last time as manager of Everton Football Club to say goodbye.

That match, the final home game of Everton’s campaign in May 2013, stands in stark contrast to events over the past 48 hours.

There was a magnitude to that moment which cannot be understated, as Moyes bid farewell to the 39,475 in attendance while flanked by a guard of honour consisting of players both past and present. The fans were sorry to see him leave Everton.

Meanwhile, up the M62, Sir Alex Ferguson was also bidding adieu to Manchester United after a tremendous quarter-decade managing the club. Ferguson told his adoring audience to “back our new manager”.

That manager, of course, was to be fellow Scot Moyes – hand-picked to succeed Ferguson by the man himself – on a six-year contract. The Old Trafford crowd roared their approval, signalling their intent to give him that backing.

Less than a year on and their roars took on a very different tone – of embarrassment, anguish, and fury.

Moyes, May 2013

“Everton’s fantastic fans have played a big part in making my years at Goodison so enjoyable and I thank them wholeheartedly for the support they have given me and the players. Everton will be close to me for the rest of my life.”

The catastrophic downward spiral from being Premier League champions to also-rans under Moyes led to him being sacked as manager of Manchester United today.

The ultimate indignity for him, perhaps, is that it was seemingly Sunday’s 2-0 loss to his former club Everton that rang the death knell on his time as United boss.

What’s more, Moyes, once respected and valued by the blue half of Merseyside, was met with howls and jeers of derision when he returned to his old stomping ground. Even the Grim Reaper turned up to signal his departure.

Perceptions of Moyes have never been lower, and his dismissal is the culmination of a miserable ten months. What once may have appeared to be the biggest opportunity of his career has gradually revealed itself as the ultimate poisoned chalice in football.

Ferguson, May 2013

“We unanimously agreed on David Moyes. David is a man of great integrity with a strong work ethic. I’ve admired his work for a long time and approached him as far back as 1998 to discuss the position of assistant manager here. There is no question he has all the qualities we expect of a manager at this club.”

The greatest ignominy for Moyes, however, was not how his United team were performing under his leadership, but how the team he left behind has been performing without him. His every failure has been cast in an even harsher light by Everton’s transformation under new manager Roberto Martinez.

Under Martinez, Everton have already bettered their greatest ever tally of Premier League points, and are in a contest with Arsenal to finish in the final Champions League qualification spot of fourth place.

And they are doing so while playing a brand of attractive football that is being lauded in a way Moyes’ functional Everton sides never enjoyed.

The Martinez philosophy – true to the Catalan virtues of control, technique and verve – has seen the Toffees produce some of the best performances seen by Evertonians in many a year, most recently in an outstanding 3-0 dismantling of their league rivals Arsenal.

They even did the double over Manchester United, having never won at Old Trafford in the 11 years under Moyes.

While United have failed to qualify for the Champions League, Martinez has given Everton their best opportunity to reach that level since Moyes himself managed it almost ten years ago.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez. Pic © Jon Candy / Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Everton have flourished under Roberto Martinez. Pic © Jon Candy / Wikipedia / Creative Commons

It hasn’t all been received kindly. The Spaniard’s shrewd loan acquisitions have caused controversy among managers such as Arsene Wenger, but overall Martinez’s Everton are being celebrated, with fans declaring that ‘The School of Science’ is on its way back.

The emergence of fresh young players has also endeared Martinez to Everton supporters, with Ross Barkley, John Stones and James McCarthy all impressing with some tremendous performances.

Together, this collection of young players has given Everton renewed endeavour and purpose. They have flourished while Moyes has floundered.

Some years ago, Moyes made a statement about Everton, when player Steven Pienaar was in the process of leaving for Tottenham Hotspur, which will now seem highly appropriate to the Toffees faithful.

He said: “Most people that have left here, it’s not tended to work out for them.”

It is ironic that this sentiment now applies so thoroughly to him.

About Paul McIntyre, JMU Journalism