With a decent start to his La Liga managerial career, we reason why Moyes and Real Sociedad make sense together.
David Moyes looks a visibly younger man in Basque country than his cold and nervous days in the north of England last season. As I write this, his Real Sociedad side are leading away at Granada as the half time whistle blows. Carlos Vela’s penalty tucked away would have pleased the Scot as he looks more at home at San Sebastian than he ever did during his unfortunate stint in Manchester. And why shouldn’t he? On course for a fourth win in La Liga and having lost only once in the league and another time in the Copa del Rey, Moyes has had a splendid start to life in Spain.
And the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. Real Sociedad are a mid table club having potential, dogged determination and steely spirit one usually associates with the underdog. Moyes is much the same. Studious, pragmatic, surprising, efficient, disciplined and cautious – these are traits people at Merseyside must be very familiar with. It was at Everton that Moyes used this range of attributes to mould a team that was hard-working, disciplined, mostly functional, but with a little touch of flair that would surprise many. In short, a team of mid table achievers that punched above their weight and often left the heavyweights with a bloody nose.
Moyes thrives on this. At United, the situation completely opposite. He was expected to win. He was going into every match with all to lose and David Moyes just doesn’t operate that way. This could be seen very clearly in the way his United teams were set up. A classic 4-4-1-1, with bodies behind the ball, slow on the build up, cautious in the passing and defending deep. This was a team not trying to win games, instead finding out ways not to lose them. The contrast between the philosophy of his United team and Louis van Gaal’s is stark.
At Real Sociedad, Moyes has found familiarity. He is back to his doggedly defensive approach which worked for the Basque team. Moyes’s gameplay fashioned the giant killing of the season so far when Sociedad beat Barcelona at home in their first game of the new year. Jordi Alba scored the only goal of the game when he glanced the ball into his own net to give Sociedad the lead. But it was Sergio Canales who put a cross in that corridor of uncertainty across the box that forced Alba to head it past his own keeper. Canales, a disappointment at previous clubs Valencia and Real Madrid looked lively for Sociedad and was the outlet for their other attacking moves of the game. Moyes showed faith in the man not known for his work rate and Canales delivered – closing down attacks, always being available down the left wing for the pass.
Moyes has instilled fantastic work rate in his team. Sociedad were left defending for their lives as Barcelona tried to carve out an opening. They defended deep, kept their mind and soul together and fought tooth and nail for their win – all characteristics of Moyes’s time in charge at Everton. In his first full season at the Goodison, Everton churned out six consecutive 1-0 victories, so Moyes does know a thing or two about shutting up shop. He is also known to bring up youngsters at his clubs.
Seamus Coleman, John Stones, Ross Barkley have impressed in the Everton blue and Moyes should get a lot of credit for their development. Even at United, Moyes blooded Adnan Januzaj into the first team – something Van Gaal has still not regularly done. So it shouldn’t surprise many that Moyes put his trust in 22 year old Argentine goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli, who had only started one game in La Liga since his summer move from Estudiantes, against Barcelona. Rulli looked comfortable with the pressure, especially as he thwarted Luis Suarez twice in the closing stages of the match.
Moyes has settled in well at his new club, perhaps in a team like Everton, who enjoy shocking classier opponents with their resilience. Here he has the luxury of building his own team, on his own terms, without pressure to win each game and win it well. Moyes will get the job done, in whatever way he can. He might as well finally be a proud ‘Chosen One’. His recent success at Sociedad will welcome scrutiny about his ability to handle a team full of stars and expectations like Manchester United. While there will be no encouraging answers to be found yet, for now, Real Sociedad will do just fine.