David Moyes Roberto Mancini

While manager of Everton, David Moyes was often – rightly – criticised for his failure to beat many of the ‘big clubs.’

In 2008 Sheikh Mansour, under the guise of the Abu Dhabi United Group, bought Manchester City. Transfer budgets increased immediately and the club fortunes immeasurably, City meant business. The 2009-10 season saw Roberto Mancini replace Mark Hughes as manager and their march to the top really began.

Despite largely failing against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, for four seasons Everton and Moyes were City’s and Mancini’s nemesis.

Over four seasons and eight games – before Mancini was replaced by Manual Pellegrini – Moyes dominated the Italian.

Six wins, one draw and only one loss came the Toffees way in that four year period. A period that saw City finish fifth, third, champions and second, while Everton finished eighth, seventh twice and sixth.

Shopping Sprees

City spent heavily in pursuit of glory, titles and the riches of the Champions League. Moyes and Everton, by comparison, were largely bargain basement purchasers.

City – amongst many others – bought the likes of Aguero, Dzeko and Silva for combined fees of £95 million. Moyes signed Bilyaletdinov, Fellaini and Heitinga for £30 million – the contrast in spending power stark, to say the least.

But where Moyes lacked the cash reserves to buy success, his scouting and recruiting from the bargain basement was impressive. Arteta, Baines, Cahill, Distin and Jagielka all joined the Toffees for less than City paid for Nigel De Jong.

Determined and organised, Moyes was a stickler for detail and demanded a work ethic, at least, the equal of his peers. And his Everton team could play some exhilarating football, interspersed with abject mediocrity when it came to the ‘big clubs.’

Mancini, for all the money spent and stars he signed, the FA Cup and Premier League trophies won, just couldn’t get to grips with Moyes’ Everton.

Two games between the clubs bring back memories, the first a Monday night at the Etihad Stadium, the second a Tuesday night at Goodison.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, well almost

December 2010 was cold, bitingly cold and the weekend before Christmas saw plenty of games postponed. Snow and plummeting temperatures decimated fixtures all over the country. City versus Everton was slated for Monday Night football on Sky and they were desperate for the game to go-ahead.

The streets around the Etihad were liberally covered with snow and the pavements treacherous underfoot. City’s ground staff worked overtime keeping the pitch as clear as possible in an attempt for the game to proceed.

City were third in the table and a win would take them to the top for Christmas. Everton were 15th, little wonder Sky were desperate for the game to go ahead, they sensed a goal-fest.

As the crowd filtered in, almost to a man clutching a cup of hot Bovril, the teams emerged to warm-up. The City players wearing gloves and snoods – oversized fashion-extra neck-warmers – didn’t look up for the game at all. Incredibly in the biting cold, no Everton player wore gloves… and snoods? under Glaswegian Moyes? not a chance in hell.

Over-Confidence

Part of the Etihad pre-game ‘entertainment’ was a pitch-side interview with manager Roberto Mancini, shown on the big screens. Sporting a thick scarf, Mancini was clearly cold and wanting to get back inside the warmth of the dressing room.

I remember Phil Neville standing, looking up at the screen, clearly listening as the interviewer posed his penultimate question. “Roberto, what will it mean to you and the players to be top of the table at Christmas?”

In the stands, I couldn’t believe my ears but quite clearly, Neville believed his. He immediately called Leon Osman, Leighton Baines and Tim Cahill towards him for a council of war. Neville, ex-United, now captain of Everton was in no mood to be a sacrificial lamb for this interviewer or Sky.

Five to eight, over 45,000 hardy, shivering supporters of both clubs in the stands and the teams emerged for the game. The mercury had plunged further, it was minus 10 Celsius but the demands of Sky had to be met.

The pitch was bone hard and City’s players, some of them were still in gloves and snoods. Ridiculously, Phil Neville led out Everton wearing a short-sleeved shirt, and he wasn’t alone, Australian Tim Cahill too was sleeveless. Other than goalie Tim Howard, there wasn’t a glove anywhere in sight on the team from Merseyside, snoods unthinkable. Neville was sending a message, ‘we don’t give a shit about the cold, let’s get to it.’

And Everton got to it. Neville, with his council of war, had garnered the collective will to win, Everton wanted it more. Inside twenty minutes, Cahill and Baines gave the Toffees a deserved, but totally against the odds and form guide, lead. Kompany and Fellaini were first-half bookings and the visitors, roared on by tremendous support, led at the break.

Victor Anichebe saw yellow and red card before the hour mark, Moyes’ natural penchant for defence would now be needed. The game intensified and Yaya Toure reduced the arrears with less than twenty minutes to play. It was backs to the wall time for Everton.

“You wanna go?”

If they needed inspiration from the touchline, it came as the ball went out for a City throw-in and Moyes gathered it. Mancini rushed to him trying to wrestle the ball away, and Moyes hung on.

Words were passed and Moyes patently out-swore and outmuscled the Italian who, rather sensibly, thought better of taking it further.

Time was running out for the home side and tempers began to frazzle. Gareth Barry, later to enjoy a superb spell with Everton, was booked in added-on time, ahead of Kolo Toure following Anichebe in receiving two yellows and a red.

Final whistle, 1-2, and Moyes was four for four against City under Mancini.

Sky had had their match, but not the result they expected and probably wanted. Moyes and his Everton players though, were able to enjoy the post-match celebrations with their freezing cold, deliriously happy fans.

Late night fun

This second memory of Moyes getting the better of Mancini came the following season, in January 2012.

I was living and working in Khartoum, capital of Sudan and had only been there four weeks. I hadn’t yet acquired a Premier League TV package, so watching live footie was courtesy of Solitaire, a local cafe that screened games.

But that was only on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

January 31st, 2012 was a Tuesday and Everton were hosting City at Goodison with an 8 o’clock kick-off time. But 8 PM in the UK was 11 PM in Khartoum, Sudan, three hours ahead of GMT, Solitaire would be shut.

None of the other ex-pats in the building where I lived had a Premier League TV package either. Two weren’t even interested in football, strange people.

Internet access in Sudan was patchy at the best of times. Getting a connection stable and strong enough to stream games was almost impossible. With Sudan an embargoed and, to all intents and purposes, a closed country, access to the BBC or other western media was also very limited.

I’d tried calling a couple of other ex-pats I’d met to see if anyone had TV access. They either didn’t or didn’t fancy staying up to the early hours just so I could watch a game.

Kick-off Time

Quarter to eleven, and I’d managed to get on the internet and the Everton website. I knew the teams and boy, this was gonna be another tough game against a City side loaded with (expensive) talent.

Everton: Howard, Baines, Neville, Heitinga, Hibbert, Donovan, Gibson, Fellaini, Drenthe, Cahill and Strasqualursi.

City: Hart, Clichy, Lescott, Kompany, Richards, Milner, Nasri, Barry, Silva, Dzeko and Aguero.

Everton in 14th place, City top of the table.

I tried for an hour to get BBC Five Live or Radio Merseyside on the internet radio, but to no avail. All I could do was keep trying the Everton website for text updates.

Midnight… half-time… nil-nil… so far, so good.

No idea how the game was actually going, but we were holding them.

Some nutcase had invaded the pitch during the first half and handcuffed themselves to the Park End goalposts. There’d been a delay, this game was gonna go late. Time for a brew.

A sandwich and hibiscus tea made, no booze, this is Islamic Sudan don’t forget and therefore ‘dry.’ It took me about another ten days to find a friendly source of illicit hooch.

On the off chance it would work, I tried to log-in to the Everton website for their commentary.

Bingo !! The dulcet scouse tones of Darren Griffiths came through the ether.

Maybe midnight was the threshold time for foreign radio services? Maybe the Sudanese authorities figured all ex-pats would be tucked up in bed? Bar me, they all were in my building.

Who knows, who cared? I didn’t, I’d got live commentary and my Blues were attacking the Gwladys Street End.

Fifteen minutes into the second half, now around half past midnight, and against all the odds, Everton scored.

Royston Drenthe got away from Gareth Barry. He made ground before finding Leighton Baines in oceans of space on the left flank. Baines swung over a first-time cross looking for Cahill. Barry, now in his own box could only direct his clearing header to Landon Donovan. The American controlled the ball and laid it back to the edge of the box where Darron Gibson arrived.

Gibson simply thrashed it goalwards. The ball took a deflection off Barry and flew past a rooted Hart, who had no chance.

Goodison exploded and er… so did I.

Check it out below:

And check out Roberto Mancini, his shake of the head in disbelief is just beautiful watching.

Everton held on for the victory and approaching 1 AM, I celebrated again.

In work the next morning, I got some rather dirty looks from my fellow ex-pats. Somebody or something had woken them up in the wee small hours…. oh dear.

David Moyes and Darron Gibson both had their faults. Moyes, ultimately, was too conservative and Gibson couldn’t keep fit, free from injury or away from the booze.

But on that balmy, warm night in Khartoum, almost 5000 miles from home, they’d made me a very happy Blue.