If you took a sabbatical from football last year then you probably missed the David Moyes and Manchester United soap opera that seemed dominate every news cycle. In a mere 10 months, all of his previous work at Everton became overshadowed by poor results and a barrage of internet memes mocking Moyes’ incompetence.
The backlash following his dismissal as Manchester United manager was so great that Sir Alex Ferguson backtracked on his influence in appointing Moyes as his successor in his recently updated autobiography.
After seven months off, Moyes has made his return to management by taking charge of Real Sociedad. The 51 year old Scot showed no sign of trepidation at his unveiling press conference last Thursday declaring:
I believe this is the biggest challenge of my career.
Indeed it appears as though he relishes the challenge of managing in Spain:
I think at the present time you could say it [La Liga] is the best league in the world. It’s overtaken the Premiership because of the quality of the players and the teams. La Liga has some of the finest players, some really good coaches and I wanted to test myself against the best.
Real Sociedad are side with a history of appointing British managers. Tottenham Hotspur centre half Harry Lowe managed the side between 1930 and 1935. John Toshack took charge of Sociedad on three different occasions with his initial spell between 1985 and 1989 being the most successful winning the Copa Del Rey in 1987 and finishing as runners up to Real Madrid in the 1987/1988. Current Wales manager Chris Coleman took charge in 2007 after they had been relegated the season before.
Moyes himself, should be well aware of Basque side if his methodical approach to scouting is correct. His Manchester United side faced Real Sociedad twice in the group stage of last season’s Champions League. Manchester United beat the Spanish side at Old Trafford 1-0 before playing out a 0-0 draw at the Estadio Anoeta in the return fixture.
Currently, Real Sociedad are languishing just above the relegation zone at 15th after their first 11 games. Winning two, drawing three and losing six with a minus four goal difference leaves them 12 points adrift from the European spots.
It was not just La Real’s poor form that led to Jagoba Arrasate sacking but the fact that team had been playing without direction and it was felt that the former assistant was unable to turn their fortunes around.
Arrasate had been shown the door barely four months after being chosen to replace Philippe Montainier after the Frenchman decided to not renew his contract and join Stade Rennais in Ligue 1.
In the last two years, La Real have lost three of their most influential players, Asier Illarramendi, Claudio Bravo and Antoine Griezmann to Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid respectively. Notwithstanding, David Moyes inherits a talented, tenacious squad with a lot of potential to grow. Carlos Vela, Xabi Prieto, Esteban Granero and Inigo Martinez are all gifted footballers while much is expected of the young players Ruben Pardo and Jon Gaztanaga.
The goalkeeper situation is arguably the first issue Moyes will have to solve. Failing to properly replace Claudio Bravo in the summer has proved costly with Eñaut Zubikarai an inconsistent presence between the sticks.
Many have already made the comparisons between Real Sociedad and Everton and the feeling is that he can do something similar in San Sebastian. No one is more aware of this than Moyes himself saying:
I spent 11 great years at Everton and I took over a club similar to this, in a similar situation, and I think we got better and better. I don’t see any reasons why I can’t do that.
This is a point that even club captain Xabi Prieto echoed:
He has a very big reputation in the game and all the players want him to do the same for us here as he did with Everton.
This is not just a chance for David Moyes to rebuild his career away from the glare of the English media but it is a opportunity for Real Sociedad to finally gain some stability with someone who is used to not spending large sums of money every summer on high profile signings. Not that Moyes will need to.
According to the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) only Barcelona, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Lyon and Paris Saint Germain have better youth academies in the world. La Zubieta has produced the likes of Xabi Alonso in the past and 13 members of the current squad have all made the step from the B team.
Everything is in place for Moyes to be a success in Spain, the squad are hungry, he has the full backing of the board and most importantly he intends to keep much of the backroom staff already in place something which he was criticised with doing at Manchester United allowing Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen to leave.
Moyes’ first game in charge will come against Deportivo La Coruna at home on Saturday evening and the man surely has a point to prove to his former employers.