Ah, February – Cupid’s month. To the lovebirds, it’s a month of bliss, overpriced flower deliveries and empty checking accounts. To the heartbroken, it’s a month of remembering messy breakups, wasted months, and boozing your sorrows away over “what could’ve been”. The latter must be exactly what goes through every Manchester United supporter’s mind when they hear the name, David Moyes.
The man whose presence was welcomed warmly at every Premier League ground not named Old Trafford. The legendary Scotsman who nearly broke as many club records in a ten month span as his predecessor did in twenty-seven years.
- 1st Home loss to Newcastle since 1972
- 1st Home loss to West Brom since 1978
- 1st League loss to Stoke since 1984
- 1st Home loss to Everton since 1992
- 1st Home loss to Swansea EVER
The list goes on really.
Most of us are already familiar with the story. At the helm of a Manchester United side that dominated the Premier League since its inception, stood a tactical guru known to the world as Sir Alex Ferguson. At the time of his retirement in 2013, Sir Alex made it clear that he was going to play a key role in deciding who would replace him as manager of the most decorated club in modern day English football. Instead of going for an established, trophy-winning manager, with experience at a big club – the likes of Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, and Pep Guardiola – Sir Alex and the board at Manchester United decided that his replacement would be his fellow Scotsman, Everton manager, David Moyes.
In all fairness, most would say that Moyes did exactly what was expected of him at Everton. Consistently challenging for a spot in Europe, the Toffees even managed to make an appearance in the FA Cup final in 2009. One year prior to his storied move to Manchester United, David Moyes became just the fourth manager in the history of the Premier League to record 150 wins. But no matter how decent his resume, taking over a club that just won their 20th league title was destined to be a task too big for the former Preston North End defender.
It didn’t take long until the other 19 clubs in the Premier League all had the mentality that United were beatable again.
On April 22nd 2014, David Moyes was relieved of his managerial duties.
His sacking three days before his birthday was probably the most embarrassing thing to happen to a United gaffer since Cesc smacked Sir Alex square in the forehead with a slice of pizza.
In a season that ended with the soon-to-be retired Ryan Giggs as manager, Manchester United, yes THE Manchester United, finished 7th in the Premier League table.
Like all good things, the Moyes-United relationship came to an end.
May 2014 marked the beginning of a new era at Old Trafford. One in which a Dutch, Champions League winning manager spends £150 million on transfers to play one of the best strikers in the Premier League on the right wing.
When Louis Van Gaal was appointed manager of Manchester United it was inevitable that however lengthy his time at the club, his first season would always be compared to that of David Moyes.
The two managers differed tactically, but in terms of results, not so much.
With David Moyes, you knew what you were getting. A very direct game in the 4-4-2 formation, with balls played from all lengths of the pitch into a taller, more physical player. Which is what made Marouane Fellaini and his High School Musical haircut excel with Everton. Louis Van Gaal is a manager that likes to experiment tactically — different formations, shifting players around the pitch, even changing the positions of veteran players. Manchester United have found themselves this season consistently utilizing the unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation, which has led to fans chanting “4-4-2” at both home and away games in protest. Most would tell you that Van Gaal is handling the position much better than his predecessor, but after 24 games in charge, Van Gaal’s side has won 12, identical figures to that of David Moyes. The only difference being their positioning in the Premier League table. This year United sit at 3rd, due to a shaky start from the other perennial Champions League place contenders, while the United of 2013/2014 sat outside of the top 4. This continually raises the question, why doesn’t Louis Van Gaal face the same pressures and scrutiny that was placed upon David Moyes?
The answer is simple.
Just like we are in the normal world, footballing professionals are judged heavily on their work experience.
To put this in more relative terms, David Moyes being employed as Manchester United manager was like a shift manager at Nando’s ditching the old deep-fryer to classy it up and manage the Glass House in Kew.
Although Van Gaal is known more for his Champions League win with Ajax than the time he nearly got Barcelona relegated, his complete CV is still one of the best in world football.
Having faced pretty much all of the scrutiny and embarrassment in England that one individual could bear, Moyes did what every British male does after a messy breakup, he went to Spain.
Since his return as a football manager at Real Sociedad, David Moyes has managed to beat Barcelona.
Get friendly with the locals.
And horribly mispronounce the name of not only a player, but club in La Liga.
Whether Manchester United can fully shake the ghost of David Moyes this season, only time will tell, but as of right now, I think it’s safe to say he’s the happier of the two post-divorce.