LIVERPOOL — Boos rang around Goodison Park as David Moyes stood on the edge of his technical area before Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat to Everton on Sunday.
Every time he was shown on the big screen Everton’s fans showed their distaste and the home fans finished off the game with a rendition of “You’re getting sacked in the morning” just to rub salt further into the wounds.
This is not the homecoming the former Everton boss would’ve wanted on his first trip back to Goodison since he left last summer.
United were outfought, outplayed and looked inferior across the board as Everton recorded the double over United for the first time since the 1969-70 season, following their 1-0 win at Old Trafford back in October. With the victory Everton kept their top four hopes well and truly alive, while United saw theirs vanish mathematically.
After the match Moyes insisted his side played well, much to the bemusement of the assembled press, but with Champions League soccer out of the window for next season, the former Everton boss knows his side are struggling.
“It hurts [not finishing in the top four], it’s part of this club,” Moyes said afterwards. “We are doing everything we can to get ourselves back in it again. I think the supporters have been behind the team incredibly. I think they’ve realized it has been a difficult season. The supporters are supporting the team and they understand it has not been good. I recognize it hasn’t been good. It needs to be better.”
While United need to do better, Everton have reached 69 points for the first time in Premier League history. Throughout their win over United on Sunday, it was a strange sight seeing the man who’d been the hero of Evertonians for over 11 years, vilified by the fans who had adored him.
As Moyes brought his United side back to Goodison Park for the first time since he left the Blues last summer, instead of a heroes’ welcome, Moyes got a mouthful from angry Everton fans all afternoon.
They taunted him with songs (“Moyesy, Moyesy give us a wave”) and a home fan wearing a Grim Reaper costume with an inflatable scythe stood behind Moyes for the opening 15 minutes. That about sums up Moyes’ mood right now.
“We should’ve played better, we didn’t create chances,” Moyes said. “We passed it well enough but we could’ve done better. We didn’t do it today, we had a lot of the ball but we didn’t make it count. Everybody knows we are on track to make changes and do some different things. We are rebuilding. We’ve got things we want to do, today there were things we didn’t do well.”
United didn’t play well, at all, and Everton’s fans were lapping it up on the terraces. Yet, why the animosity towards a man who turned Everton from regular battlers against relegation to perennial top four challengers?
The United manager tried to raid his old team last summer, as he eventually signed Marouane Fellaini for $37.5 million and tried to lure Everton left back Leighton Baines to the Red Devils. The rhetoric Moyes used to try and unsettle both players angered the Everton faithful and with the subsequent success of new Blues boss Roberto Martinez and Moyes’ rough start to life at Old Trafford, Evertonians now believe life under Moyes wasn’t as grand as it once seemed.
Martinez spoke of Moyes’ past tenure at Everton and how he is reaping the benefits from the carefully laid plans the Scotsman put in place.
“I was a very fortunate man to walk into a football club where everything was in place,” Martinez said. “The work that David did over 11 years was there. Yes, I wanted to change many things, but I didn’t want to lose anything. I brought 10 player sin which is a big amount, the senior players were very open to play in a different manner and we gave a massive role to the younger players. That is the big difference in this squad. I thought David Moyes’ job at Everton provided the platform for the performances we have been able to put in this season.”
Following a number of poor performances this season, Moyes is now undertaking a total rebuild of United’s playing squad.
“We’re doing that behind the scenes and we will continue to do that behind the scenes just now,” Moyes said. “We will do everything we possibly can to get a team that is capable of winning better than what we’ve been doing recently.”
Make no mistake about it, Moyes worked wonders on a shoestring budget with the Toffees as he guided them to fourth place, guaranteed a top 10 finish and brought in plenty of profit from many shrewd transfer dealings. Moyes put the building blocks in space for Martinez to succeed, yet the free-flowing attacking soccer Everton now roll out on a weekly basis is in stark contrast to the restrictive and simple soccer Moyes deployed.
That was evident on Sunday, as Everton marauded down the right-wing effortlessly — with Seamus Coleman, Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku ganging up on Alexander Buttner to devastating effect — as United’s defense couldn’t handle the Toffees’ inventive and forthright approach. Moyes’ own United team looked lightweight, with Shinji Kagawa, Juan Mata and Nani trying to get on the ball but as soon as the ball was lost none of them got back to defend. That left United horribly exposed, as the Red Devils knocked the ball from side to side with no real purpose and lacked creativity in the final third.
Moyes admitted, his current side failed to compete with the team he meticulously assembled and is now watching flourish from afar.
“We had good control of the game, we had the bulk of the ball,” Moyes said. “Everton area a threat on the break, their first goal was a big kick up the pitch from Ross Barkley, nodded down, picked up and for us to conceded a goal like that was terrible. The second one was a better move, but we should’ve defended them much better.”
Does Moyes deserve to be a villain at Goodison Park?
The Scotsman has done nothing wrong, yet in a world were instant success is now expected and legacies are quickly forgotten, what he left behind at Everton is now being built on as Martinez takes the Blues to the next chapter.
UEFA Champions League dreams are real at Goodison Park with three games to go this season, while Moyes’ United have been overtaken by the side he left to further his coaching career, win trophies and play in Europe. Oh, the irony.