As he prepares to return to Goodison Park competitively for the first time as Manchester United manager tomorrow, David Moyes insisted that he built Everton into the club his successor Roberto Martinez has been able to develop.
Moyes acknowledged that his relationship with fans of the club he managed for 11 years needed “healing” and he expects hostility because he went back for Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines last summer. The purchase of midfielder Fellaini by United was something Martinez insisted yesterday was neither “fine” nor “easy”.
But Moyes, needing a win to avoid the indignity of Martinez finishing the season above him, made it clear that he feels he transformed the Merseyside club, which had finished in the top 10 only once in the Premier League era before he arrived to succeed Walter Smith in 2002.
Asked what he felt about the characterisation of Martinez as the manager who had made Everton more ambitious and free-spirited, Moyes said: “They have some really good players and they have gone on again. Great credit to Roberto but he has a group of players who were always capable of going on again, of improving, maybe moving further up the league.
“Don’t forget, Everton finished above Liverpool last year – and the year before. In a way it should not be a surprise they are doing well. They’ve been in seven or eight for most seasons recently.”
Just 48 hours after Everton’s home defeat to Crystal Palace severely damaged their chances of a top-four finish, Moyes added: “You have to remember we also finished in the Champions League.”
Martinez acknowledged the difficulty Moyes faced at United in replacing a manager of Sir Alex Ferguson’s longevity. “You can only really do that internally; from the outside it is more difficult,” he said. But he said he understood why Everton fans’ perceptions of Moyes had changed and why their response to him might be negative.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think every Evertonian appreciates the job David Moyes has done and the reception he got after the final game of last season against West Ham was full of genuine emotion,” Martinez said. “That was for the manager of Everton. Everything else is about the manager of Manchester United.
“We can all look back now and say [United buying Fellaini] is fine but [at the time] it was difficult. To lose your highest scorer on deadline day is not easy. You can’t really replace him unless you have a wealth of other possible options. The feelings of Evertonians are not towards David Moyes, the ex-Everton manager but the new Manchester United manager.”
United will be six points behind Everton with a game in hand if they win at Goodison tomorrow, with Wayne Rooney in the side after training all week and Fellaini also fit.
Moyes asserted that there had “always been a chain of young players ready to go in the team [at Everton] and I think that’s helped. We had a great recruitment department, a brilliant staff, all round the club. All those people have helped. It’s a well-run club. The financial situation was tough. We didn’t have a great deal of cash but we always tried to make it work as well as we could.”
Despite a view from some at Everton that Moyes’s knowledge of United’s interest dated to last February, leading him to stall a new contract and thus denying the club £3m compensation, Moyes said his departure could not have been handled better. He insisted that the phone call from Ferguson came on “April 28, something like that”.
People may not “believe how it happened,” Moyes admitted. “I also think there was animosity because of the players – we’d like to have bought a couple of them. But lots of United players go to Everton, so there is reverse. Hopefully in time everyone will look at it and say it was a really good period in Everton’s history.”