Back to his roots. Not that David Moyes has a significant relationship with Spain. None in fact. Yet, while the Scot’s tenure at Old Trafford still brings cold sweats to even the most hardened Manchester United fan, there is no denying Real Sociedad’s is a bold choice of new manager: Moyes on an 18-month contract. A middle ranking club, for a middle ranking manager; both specialist in building more than the sum of meagre parts.
In truth United was always a step too far for Moyes – an alien environment that set the Scot’s worldview spinning. San Sebastián, even with its distinct language and proud Basque culture, should hold no fear for the former Everton manager. It may even be the making of Moyes after a humiliating experiment gone wrong in Manchester. Make it here and the Scot will reinvent a personal brand gone horribly awry over the past 18 months.
These are not easy times at Sociedad though, and Moyes will be far from taking over the league-winning squad he inherited at United. Six defeats in 11 La Liga games and an early exit at the Europa League qualifying stage brought Jagoba Arrasate’s reign to an abrupt end in early November. Supporters hopes for renewed progress this season, after finishing fourth two years ago and seventh in 2013/14, have been dashed on a string of poor results. The slide has been dramatic, with chairman Jokin Aperribay acting after Txuriurdin slipped to 19th in La Liga.
Few at Anoeta hold any sympathy for Arrasate though – a man whose passive brand of football alienated both the terraces and his playing squad. Where former manager Philippe Montanier built an attacking side around the ample talents of Antoinne Griezmann, Inigo Martinez and Carlos Vela, Arrasate has seemingly preached a more conservative – and unsuccessful – approach.
“Fans did not believe in him and, more damagingly, nor did the players,” concludes the Guardian‘s Sid Lowe. “The team lost identity and lost their way. Good footballers stagnated, bereft of leadership.”
It is, those of a crueler persuasion might add, an assessment that could have been made at almost any point during Moyes’ humbling Old Trafford tenure.
Arrasate, an inexperienced former primary school teacher, was not helped by summer departures. Griezmann joined Atlético Madrid for more than €25 million, goalkeeper Cladio Bravo ended up at Barcelona for a little under half that sum, and forward Haris Seferovic moved to the Budesliga with Eintract Frankfurt. In came the Icelandic striker Alfred Finnbogason, who scored at almost one per game in the Dutch league, and the ever erratic Esteban Granero. Neither has settled well in San Sebastián.
Yet, this is a challenge Moyes should enjoy. Relish even. First, to arrest an alarming decline in the club’s fortunes and to stamp his authority on players not able, or in some cases, ready to reach the club’s recent heights. Next, to drive the Basque side back into the Champions League – a platform that Moyes very much believes is one he has earned.
Moyes inherits a squad bereft of confidence, even if there is talent. Martínez and Vela remain, while youngsters such as Jon Gaztañaga and Rubén Pardo will compliment the experienced captain Xabi Prieto. Moyes, diligent as ever, will already have formed a view of his squad’s strengths and weaknesses – one bolstered as the Scot watched his first training session at Sociedad’s Zubieta complex on Wednesday.
Moyes will also need plenty luck. After all, he is unlikely to receive any more patience than the 10 months proffered at Old Trafford. Sociedad have enjoyed – or is that endured – 15 managers in the last 14 years, including John Toshack and Chris Coleman. Neither lasted more than 18 months.
Nor will the Scot enjoy a hefty budget; Sociedad remains every inch a ‘selling club’. It is, though, an inspiring town with a club that aspires to grow beyond its current station.
“I have spoken to him and I have told him that he is going to a marvellous place,” said former Moyes’ charge Mikel Arteta. “He is going to find a club that in many aspects resembles Everton. It’s like a family and with a group of players that are currently in a lower position that they deserve to be.”
Moyes will also be able to build on his own terms, free from the pressure of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson, and the expectations of a playing squad that simply did not believe the former Evertonian had the right tools for the job.
“He is a coach who had no luck here,” said Juan Mata, who views Moyes with more respect than many. “Replacing Sir Alex Ferguson is not easy. Not for him not for anyone. He was unlucky. He did not got the results we wanted. He did a very good job at Everton. He works hard and prepares really well for the games.”
Whether that preparation will also include Moyes’ former coaching team is yet to be revealed, although none of Steve Round, Phil Neville or Jimmy Lumsden is currently employed. Yet, the Scot may also do well to remember a lesson from Steve McClaren’s renaissance at FC Twente, where the former United assistant manager used a predominantly local backroom staff. Significantly, Moyes will have to overcome the cultural and language barriers inherent in any first-time-abroad position.
“My head was spinning and I felt nothing was going to work,” said McClaren, whose Derby County side is top of the Championship. “After six months, you start to adapt and buy into their culture and get to know the league you’re in.”
Moyes will also enjoy working away from the extreme spotlight turned on Old Trafford, and in a league where the focus is on Real Madrid and Barcelona first, and everybody else a very distant second. He may face the pressure to improve on a disastrous start to the campaign, but there will be no talk of crisis two games into his reign.
Sociedad faces newly promoted Deportivo La Coruna at the weekend, with fellow relegation strugglers Elche to follow. Not until the fixture with Barcelona on 4 January will Moyes’ new side face anybody in the top six. It is a huge opportunity to hit the ground running.
Still, Moyes was proffered a similarly gilded legacy at United – a title-winning squad and a huge contract. The Scot can ill afford another calamity if a reputation destroyed is to recover.
11 thoughts on “El Moyes that”
A decent man, I wish him well. Just should never have been given the United opportunity.
Although I hated Moyes for what he did to United, I hope he does well at Sociedad, a club similar in status and size to Everton. He will do well to learn from the mistakes he did at United and become a better manager. All the best to him.
I will be blunt. I dont think he wil be successful in Spain. Why?
a) He does not have media freinds in Spain who will spin the ‘he is a good man’ narrative when he inevitably serves his patented brand of dour ‘we will make it difficult for them’ football.
b) Nobody in Spain cares at all that British managers are not getting hired at top clubs and thus dont have an altrenative motive to back him even when he serves his patented brand of dour ‘we will make it difficult for them’ football.
c) This is just a PR stunt by Real Sociedad which has garnered them global attention and coverage by English speaking media. This will of course fade when he starts serving his patented brand of dour ‘we will make it difficult for them’ football.
Re. c)You really think Sociedad, a club in 15th position in the league, would appoint a manager purely on the basis of a PR move? Come off it…
I was about to reply with how many google hits you get of Real Sociedad this past few days when you search Manchester United on google, but then again I saw your screen name.
I suspect Real Sociedad do not make appointments based on ‘google hits’; you’re effectively suggesting Sociedad are as shallow, limited and stupid as you are. That can’t possibly be the case.
Why jump to insults Mr Twat. I was under the impression this was a website where we can have a reasonable discussion. But then again I should have guessed this would be your response to logic from your screen name.
Leave out the personal insults. Next time you do it I’ll publish your email address and IP!!
Apologies Ed. And very sorry MS. Had a few extremely shit days in a row last week and was in a foul mood, but it’s no excuse. Won’t happen again! Also think I might have been looking at the bile on the Forum too much…
Thought Moyes showed a distinct lack of managerial ambition as he was content to tread water for the last few seasons at Everton. He may well have been likened to a young Fergie when he started out as a thirty five year old manager at Preston. However, by the time he reached fifty without winning a trophy, he appeared to have settled for a modest career as a solid, reliable nearly but not quite, middle ranking manager.
Thrust into the ultra-challenging role as Sir Alex’s successor, Moyes, unsurprisingly, was out of his depth and sank like a stone. One of his failings, amongst many, was his reluctance or inability to make the quantum leap required to be United manager. An example of this was Moyes’ arrival at Old Trafford shrouded in his Everton security blanket of Round, Lumsden, Woods and Neville. His trusted backroom staff they might have been, but only goalkeeping coach Chris Woods was up to the task.
My advice to Moyes, for what it’s worth, is to have a bi-lingual coaching team including Spanish/ English (or Spanish/Scottish?) speakers and individuals with local knowledge. Expectations will be less than those at Old Trafford but a manager’s lifespan is not long at Sociedad, so treading water is not an option. It’s a demanding task but it could be the making of him. Even if he fails, he’s still got plenty of cash to buy himself a villa in the Spanish sun.