David Moyes has spent much of the past week being dubbed yesterday’s man but ended it on a defiant note. “I’m looking forward to winning trophies and being successful again,” said Sunderland’s manager as he prepared for Manchester United’s visit on Sunday. “I hope the best is still to come from me.”
April seems to be a particularly cruel month for Moyes who has just experienced the toughest few days of his career since his sacking by United almost three years ago. In the interim he has also been dispensed with by Real Sociedad, but the pain he endured in Spain was minimal in comparison to that Sunderland’s manager has suffered following the furore when footage of the unfortunate, deeply condescending language he directed towards the BBC’s Vicki Sparks last month came to light.
Facing the media in coolly professional mode – no small talk, no smiles and most definitely no jokes – Moyes, claimed it was behind him and he had moved on.
The Football Association, however, are unlikely to allow matters to remain brushed so conveniently under the carpet. The 53-year-old must set out his case about the incident to the ruling body on Monday and he can then expect to face a misconduct charge allied to a demand he attend an education course.
If the latter promises to come as quite a culture shock, it can hardly prove more chastening than the past few months on Wearside where a manager who became accustomed to winning regularly during more than a decade at Everton has had to adjust to life at the bottom.
United will find a Sunderland side that has failed to score a goal in the six games since their return from a bonding trip to New York and adrift at the foot of the table. “This season’s been particularly difficult because, over the years I’ve become one of those managers with a really high win rate, a really high success rate and, now, suddenly I’ve been losing all the time,” Moyes said. “In all my years as a manager I’ve never been used to losing games almost every week. You can’t believe you’ve gone from having one of the best wins rates in Premier League history to being down at the bottom.”
Even his harshest critics would agree that he inherited a poisoned chalice – there is something seriously wrong at a club that has consistently shouldered one of the Premier League’s top-10 wage bills while fighting annual relegation battles, managed to make a profit on four of the last 47 players it has sold and is £140m in debt – but Moyes is not exempt from blame.
While Marco Silva has been working minor miracles on a shoestring at Hull, the Scot’s persistent, resolutely downbeat, reminders of his squad’s limitations, the club’s lack of money and the inevitability of a relegation struggle have hardly proved inspirational. “I just feel that, right from day one, I was totally realistic,” Moyes said. “Maybe that’s not what everybody wants to hear nowadays though”
Publicly, he refuses to accept that relegation is an inevitability but the club are already planning for Championship life and a manager assured he will remain in post next season intends to overhaul the squad by recruiting largely British players, preferably trailing north‑east roots.
In an increasingly global second tier where clubs recruit from a diverse talent pool, such an insular vision seems both high risk and old fashioned.
Moyes is understandably desperate to outwit José Mourinho on Sunday but can only glance enviously at the visiting personnel. “You need good players around you to really show your managerial abilities,” he said. “Sunderland’s a really hard job.”