In soccer, taking the reigns at a club after the departure of an enormously significant figure is always a perilously difficult task.
For managers, the man who follows “the man” is often handed a poisoned chalice; unable to live up to the magnitude of his predecessor and incapable of galvanizing the team in a comparable manner.
Unfortunately for David Moyes, he failed to offer a solitary glimpse that he was the right man to take over from Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United; not once in his ill-fated ten months at the club.
But in amongst the understandable furore that has accompanied his Old Trafford annexing, it’s worth noting that Moyes himself was “the man” not long ago, and consider the astute job being done by the man who followed him at Everton.
Upon leaving Merseyside for Manchester at the end of the 2012/13 season, Moyes left a void at Goodison Park that had been occupied for 11 years. Under his tutelage, the Toffees had undergone over a decade of steady progression, and on his departure it was widely regarded that the Goodison Park club would falter. “All the pundits said the Toffees would drop,” as Evertonians have chimed from the terraces this season.
Roberto Martinez was the man tasked with building on the Moyes legacy. And whilst Moyes wilted under the strain of his unfamiliarly high-profile role, Martinez has flourished.
Granted, the magnitude of one job far outweighs that of the other, but the struggles of the former Everton boss put the achievements of the new one into damning context.
Moyes walked into Old Trafford inheriting a team that had won the Premier League title by 11 points the previous season, had endured a period of sustained longevity, had money to spend and with a dressing room bursting with senior pros engrained with a winning mentality.
Martinez, whilst not in a role quite as high-profile as the Manchester United job, was dealt a similar, if not less idyllic hand. He had the previous longevity, he had the senior pros, but he was restricted in the transfer market and inherited a squad that had become crippled by tentative apprehension when it came to the big pressure games.
The Catalan shipped out a player touted by many as one of the Premier League’s finest midfield players last season in Marouane Fellaini, spending but a portion of the £27 million that he recuperated from the Belgian’s sale, not to mention the £6 million received for the sale of Victor Anichebe to West Brom.
The contrast in the fortunes of both managers since taking up their respective roles is perhaps best illustrated by the Toffees’ 12-point lead over the Red Devils in the Premier League table.
But the gap between the two manager’s manifested itself as something more much more tangible in Everton’s 2-0 win over United at Goodison Park on Easter Sunday, a game that’d prove to be Moyes’ last in the Red Devils hot-seat.
The men in blue played with a clear ideal, with positive intent and with a desire that has been unshakably pertinent throughout the season. United by contrast, operated in a casual, intrepid manner, passing the ball aimlessly and waiting for Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata or Shinji Kagawa to conjure something, out of hope more than expectation.