It took nearly eight years but David Moyes is finally emerging from the shadows of his Manchester United nightmare. The Scot can seal his rejuvenation by taking West Ham United into the Premier League top 4 on Saturday and he could make it with a win over the club that almost broke him.
The 2020-21 season was unpredictable given the impact of COVID-19. The shortened preseason, late transfer window and hectic game plan have created a situation where Everton, Aston Villa and Leeds United can thrive, and where players like Jack Grealish, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Patrick Bamford perform well. Carlo Ancelotti reminded us of his caliber as an elite manager at Everton, as did Jose Mourinho at Tottenham Hotspur. By comparison, Moyes has quietly pushed his work at West Ham without fuss, producing stability and a sense of calm, which is no easy task.
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If United’s management proved impossible for Moyes after he replaced Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer of 2013 and ended with his sacking before the end of his first season, the challenge of restoring some sort of order and consistency at West Ham was when Returning to the club for a second spell was no easy task.
Although Moyes had built a reputation as a seasoned top executive during his 11 years at Everton from 2002 to 2013, his time at United seemed to ruin all of those successes. He was overwhelmed at United and not prepared for a job of this magnitude. Moyes then made poor career choices and took jobs that were just as difficult. He was sacked as in charge of Real Sociedad after 364 days after bravely but perhaps naively trying his luck in the league. Then came the traumatic experience of Sunderland where he went into a sinking ship, predicted a fight after just two responsible games, and proved right by taking the only decline in his career.
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When he was first hired by West Ham in November 2017, it was a fire-fighting drill – as evidenced by the fact that he got a contract through the end of the 2017/18 season. He held it up, but the owners wanted a bigger name; They let Moyes go and appointed Manuel Pellegrini.
Moyes then spent 18 months outside of the game. Everton had already decided against hiring when they appointed Ancelotti. It was unclear where his next opportunity would come from, so he took on the challenge of keeping West Ham in the Premier League amid fan turmoil over the club’s poor transfer recruitment and the decision to pick Upton Park for the Leaving the Olympic Stadium annoyed in 2016.
Moyes could have been forgiven that his days at the top were numbered and that his time in Manchester would be above him for the rest of his career. But even if West Ham had turned to him as another short-term solution, the outcome was slightly different, and Moyes has to thank him for moving the club to a much healthier place. He’s back out of a contract at the end of this season but it’s unlikely he’ll be told to leave.
West Ham was 16th and one point above the relegation zone when Moyes agreed to return to the London Stadium. It might be felt as an act of desperation as he tried to revive his managerial career, but despite all the odds, it turned out to be a great decision for both the manager and the club.
After trading in the transfer market for a net total of just £ 3.4m this summer, Moyes reshaped his team and brought much-needed consistency.
Seven players have appeared in all 10 Premier League games so far, with Arthur Masuaku (9) and Fabian Balbuena (8) not far behind. Moyes made Declan Rice one of the most formidable defensive midfielders in the country and brought Mikhail Antonio back to life.
The principles that formed the basis of Moyes’ success at Everton – consistency, clarity and trust in a key group of players – have returned at West Ham and old Moyes is starting to show up again.
His bruises at Old Trafford have hurt Moyes’ reputation a lot and it’s been a long way back for the 57-year-old. Since his release in 2014, he has not won a win against United, losing twice and drawing twice in four games. However, a win on Saturday would not only lift West Ham to the Champions League positions, but also serve as some sort of redemption for Moyes.
And maybe it would eventually show that he moved on from the greatest disappointment of his career.