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Neville Southall: Moyes has been handed a shitty stick with Manchester United and he deserves time

In his exclusive column, Everton legend, Neville Southall looks at Moyes, Martinez and a lop-sided Everton/United dream team

by Neville Southall | April 17, 2014

David Moyes was dealt a really shitty stick at Manchester United. Few people realised how shallow that squad really was.

As the season progresses, the size of the task facing him has become clear. Early on, he was getting a lot of stick for underperforming with the champions, but no-one realised how shallow the squad was, especially with some of the injuries they’ve picked up.

You have to ask how the club came to be in that position in the first place. They’ve a lot of aging pros and not enough young ones who will make the grade. The squad needs a major overhaul and Fergie knew it. It’s actually strengthened Moyes’ position because everyone can see they need to spend in the summer. Yes, they’ve had a poor season, but they can clear out the deadwood and start afresh.

It’ll all be fine at the spend of the day

I wonder if Fergie did this deliberately. He would have known what was coming through and that it wasn’t good enough. This season was always going to be tough, but at least now the club will spend and they’ll emerge stronger. I can’t imagine him landing a friend [Moyes] in it with a horrendous job without having a bigger plan in mind.

Moyes should and will get another season. If you back him by giving him cash in the summer, you have to give him a season to bed the new lads in. If he buys well – and United should be able to buy well – it’ll only take three or four players to get United challenging for the title.

The only question for me is if he’ll try to build a team that’s attack-minded in the best tradition of United or will he try and build an efficient one that grinds out results, a bit like Jose Mourinho does. If it’s the latter, he’ll get a tougher time if it doesn’t start to work early on. Fans want success, but if there’s no success and the football isn’t good, patience will wear thin. If he goes more attack minded, it’s going against his nature and he may not be comfortable with it. They should give him time or else you end up like Spurs. They let him spend all that money last summer and then sack him before Christmas – what chance does he have? A different manager every year, players that the new manager doesn’t want, the club constantly starting over – it doesn’t work.


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I hope Moyes gets a good welcome from the Goodison Park crowd on Sunday. He deserves credit because he grafted for Everton for 11 years and without his efforts, Roberto Martinez would be starting from a much lower base and wouldn’t have been able to do what he did. I didn’t like his style, but Moyes took us to a level and Roberto has built on that.

For the first time in a long while, there’s more pressure on Everton heading into this game than there is on Man United. We’ve a tougher run-in than Arsenal, so we need to win all our games to have a chance. We just need to play our own game because all over the pitch, except for the strikers, we are the better team. We’ve a better back four, we’ve a better midfield – the only thing is they’ve got such talent up front when they’re all fit.

Aiming Four a brighter future

Anything less than Champions League football will be a disappointment for Everton at this stage. But that’s only because over the last few months, we’ve shown that we’re well capable of doing it. If we don’t, it won’t be from a lack of trying. Roberto Martinez goes out to try and win every game and that’s the great success of this season for Everton. Wherever we finish, he has brought his attacking philosophy to the club and that’s the most important thing in his first season. Even after the disappointment of losing to Palace, we still have a chance, but we’ll need to be near perfect from here on in. Already I’m excited about next season because Martinez has brought such positivity. He’s a bright guy, he understands the city and he knows what the fans want. He’s changed the attitude of the players and the fans.

The team is playing with freedom and ambition and if he can achieve this after one season, you can’t but get excited about the future when the manager adds to the squad with the players he wants. Plus, there’s the younger players already there. In a short space of time you can see the improvement in Ross Barkley. He was over-confident at the start of the season, but Martinez has had a word with him, allowed him to be creative, but just be a bit cleverer with the ball. John Stones, I know he was a Moyes signing, but under Martinez he has been one of our players of the season. If he’s not playing for England next season, there’s something wrong. He’s got brains, he can play ball, he’s so cool and composed – he reminds me slightly of Bobby Moore. It’s the healthiest the club has looked in a long, long time.


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If Everton do get Champions League football, I’ve no doubt some of Europe’s giants will be after him. Good. I want it that way. I want the top teams looking at him and thinking he’s what they need because it shows he’s doing a great job. If Arsene Wenger leaves the Emirates, I’m sure some Arsenal fans wouldn’t mind getting Roberto Martinez in because his football philosophy would do well at the London club.

But he wouldn’t take that job. Firstly he’s very loyal and he’s trying to build something at Goodison and secondly, he would see it as a backward step, particularly if we get that fourth place ahead of them. They might have more cash, but when I compare the two teams, I’d rather be working with the Everton squad and the potential they have. We’ve got more chance of improving than they have. As long as he gets money to spend in the summer and we keep our key players, we can get better again next season.

Despite the relative highs and lows of both teams, Sunday will be tight. I’d take a 1-0, but United will score and I’d say we’ll edge it 2-1. It’s like new Everton versus old Everton in terms of style and we’ll see how it works out. A lot will depend on how Everton start. If United can stifle them as we saw them do against Bayern Munich, we might start to get anxious and United might fancy it. But we’ve got players who can score goals all over the pitch. Baines, Coleman, Barkley, Barry – that’s without talking about the strikers. It’ll be a really good game, the ground will be buzzing and I hope we can edge it.

Neville’s Combined Everton/United XI



David De Gea is a bit unlucky, but Tim Howard is better. Tim’s really under-rated and really solid. De Gea is getting better and better and pulls off some cracking saves, but he’s also thrown a couple in over the course of the season. I know what I’m getting with Tim so I’ll go with him.


On form, it’s hard to make a case for too many of United’s outfield players. Coleman and Baines are about the best in the league in their positions, so they’re in. They keep trying to sign Baines, so clearly they think he’s better than Evra. United have chopped and changed so much at centre back you can’t really have any of them in there. Distin has been class this season and Jagielka is in despite his injury trouble.


McCarthy and Barry have struck up a magnificent midfield partnership in the centre of midfield and I couldn’t justify putting Carrick or Giggs in ahead of either of them. Ahead of them, Barkley, Rooney and Mirallas are there on form. Mata is class, but we haven’t seen enough from him so far at Old Trafford.


I’d like to have van Persie there, but he’s missed so much of the season, Lukaku gets the nod up front.

I know there’ll be a lot of United fans who disagree, but based on the evidence of this season, is that team really too wide of the mark?



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