“Wrong One – Moyes out.” A plane flew that banner over Old Trafford as Manchester United played Aston Villa in the 2013-14 Premier League. That United won 4-1 didn’t matter because by then the season was beyond repair. Handpicked by Alex Ferguson as successor, David Moyes lasted 10 months.
Cut to the present. Manchester United are still struggling but Moyes has rediscovered his mojo with West Ham where last November he completed 1,000 games as manager. He took them to the Europa League semi-finals last term and at one point, the Hammers were in contention for a top-four berth in the Premier League.
“The great thing about David is that he has shown he has the character and mentality of the best in business. I am not sure he got enough support at Manchester United,” said Owen Coyle. The former Burnley and Bolton Wanderers manager was at Wigan when Moyes moved to Manchester United on May 9, 2013.
Settling in at Manchester United after Ferguson would always be difficult and Moyes waded into a situation where Wayne Rooney was not keen on staying, the team was ageing and two crucial members on the coaching staff, Mike Phelan and Rene Muelensteen, had left. Maybe he wasn’t ready for Manchester United and maybe that is why Moyes’ contradictory instructions get mentioned in Rio Ferdinand’s book. But then, who has settled at Manchester United since Ferguson?
David and I would be on the phone four or five times a day then especially when he was getting (Marouane) Fellaini over. It was a knock-on effect because Everton were trying to get James McCarthy from Wigan. So I know he could have been supported better,” said Coyle over the phone from Scotland.
It’s difficult to survive that United experience, especially if you have started well as a manager at Preston North End and got Everton to consistently punch above their weight, once finishing above Liverpool (2004-05) and playing an FA Cup final (2008-09). Moyes then struggled at Real Sociedad and at Sunderland, who were relegated. “He didn’t really have a good team at Sunderland,” said Coyle, who won ISL with Chennaiyin FC and got Jamshedpur FC the league shield last term.
Change in mentality
When West Ham appointed him in 2017-18 to replace Slaven Bilic, Moyes helped stave off relegation but the club replaced him with Manuel Pellegrini. That experiment didn’t work so they brought him back, in December 2019, when West Ham were again close to the drop zone. Again, Moyes saved them with a 16th place finish. Next season they were sixth and qualified for Europe where West Ham beat Sevilla, Europa League’s most successful team with six titles.
“What he changed at West Ham is their mentality. He brought a winning attitude at a club that was struggling every year. He got them to believe that they should be challenging for the top positions. You can never underestimate the importance of mentality,” said Coyle.
“…If you give Moyes time, he will make a team. I’ve watched West Ham a few times this season. They have become a side that’s difficult to beat,” Fellaini told The Athletic last year.
The season didn’t end well with West Ham losing to Brighton and Brentford and being held by Burnley. But they also beat Liverpool at a crucial stage of the season. From struggling to stave off relegation, West Ham were within touching distance of the top four. Can this be the season where West Ham manage that decisive leap? Can this be a season where Moyes, a manager since 1998, wins his first trophy?
“David is a friend and I so hope it turns out that way for him. He has been clever in transfer dealings. They have brought good players but equally important was that they have been able to keep the Declan Rices,” said Coyle.
Gianluca Scamacca could be one of the “clever” signings. Bought from Sassuolo for over £30m, the big forward could solve the goal-scoring problem that hit Hammers in 2021-22. Scamacca has never missed a penalty, is good in air, can score from range, is efficient in the box and in one-on-one situations. He had 3.28 goals attempted per 90 minutes which was better than West Ham’s Michail Antonio (2.52) and Jarrod Bowen (2.42). They have also got Rennes defender Nayef Aguerd, goalie Alphonse Areola from Paris St-Germain and are keen on buying Maxwel Cornet from Burnley.
Crucially, they have also been able to retain (so far at least) Rice, Tomas Soucek, Manuel Lanzini, Said Benrahma, Kurt Zouma and Vladimir Coufal.
“But to break into the top four they will have to show amazing consistency through the season,” said Coyle. “The Premier League is a ruthless competition and any slip-up will be punished. I think West Ham had a little blip for two weeks and that is why they ended seventh. To be consistent through the season, they will also need to have the players available, so keeping them free from injuries will be crucial.”