Will this 'devil' get his due?

Moyes returns to Everton where he kept the team competitive despite limited budget

"It's football, and it's a great atmosphere at Goodison when it is in full cry," said David Moyes.

"But this game is not about me. It's about Everton and Manchester United.

"I was proud to be manager of Everton at that time but now my job is to get a result for Manchester United. We at Everton..."

Hold it right there, Mr Moyes.

There is no "we" in football when a manager moves on. He becomes, in many fans' minds, the enemy. The turncoat. The man who abandoned them.

That was why some Evertonians barracked Moyes when their team played at Old Trafford in December. It is why the homecoming at Goodison Park today will be, at best, mixed.

Emotions matter. A supporter's football club is his club for life. He or she does not have, or want, the option of moving on to better themselves - financially, competitively or otherwise.

Moyes is right. When the whistle blows, this should be about Everton v Man United. Goodison should be in "full cry" because this is an opportunity for The Toffees to do the double over the Red Devils for the first time in 44 years.

More than that, Everton are so close to the Champions League (and United are not) that the fight for three points should mean everything today.

I was in Valencia watching the Copa del Rey final so I missed Everton's shock home defeat by Crystal Palace on Wednesday. But it would not surprise me if that setback after the extraordinary run the Blues were enjoying had something to do with this weekend.

Players are human. Most of the Everton line-up was put together by Moyes. Some of those players owe him because he plucked them from lower leagues to give them their chance in the EPL.

Moyes himself was given that leg up by Everton chairman Bill Kenwright who took him from Preston and supported him through thick and thin.

Everton are no pauper club but they are not on the level of finance pumped into Man United through global branding, or Manchester City and Chelsea by foreign billionaires, or even the neighbour across the park, the American-owned Liverpool.

Moyes' Everton reflected the man. They had steel and his gritty character. They competed, sometimes against the odds. They were relentless. And if the style was at times as appealing as watching marines on desert drill, the comradeship instilled by Moyes instilled a mentality of players and crowd against all comers.

So when he last stepped foot inside Goodison Park, the home crowd gave him an appreciative hand.

Moyes, after all, had stuck with Everton (and the club with him) through 101/2 seasons. Now, 101/2 months later, he returns with his Red Devils.

So, if it is not all about him, it is what football always comes down to - them against us.

Some simmering animosity you might detect before the start today has more to do with who wears the red shirts. There might be vitriol against Wayne Rooney but, in his case, Everton sold him as a teenager when the price United paid was worth millions of life-blood to the club who found him.

Evertonians in the main accepted that reality of life.

However, the way that Moyes went about bidding for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini soon after signing his own big contract with United was another kettle of fish.

The offer, from Man United's financial controllers if not from Moyes himself, turned out to be £28 million (S$59 million) for the pair. Derisory and insulting, said one Everton source.

In the end, Manchester paid £27.5 million for the lesser of the two talents. They got Fellaini and Everton kept Baines, the best left-back in England.

As events have transpired, Fellaini, the man with the guardsman's busby of jet-black hair and gangling limbs, has looked a misfit at United. The harder he tries, the more he looks like a macho man from Moyes' Everton past.

Meanwhile, Roberto Martinez, the successor to Moyes at Goodison, has developed a style that keeps the ball on the ground. Maybe it is a style that Fellaini would have floundered in.

Baines, on the other hand, flourishes in the passing and movement control that Martinez coaches.

Not for nothing is Martinez from Barcelona; and not by coincidence is the emphasis on controlling, almost loving, the ball.

The Everton undergoing an evolution is easier on the eye than the obdurate Everton whom Moyes built.

But when the fans exercise their larynx this afternoon - as is their right - they might remember that their team might not actually still be a Premiership side had Moyes not put his heart and soul into the work for so long.

It is fair to say that Martinez, with his engaging personality and his unfailing charm in front of the TV cameras, is a very different manager to the closed face and simmering combative fire that Moyes often showed.

"We are a club full of integrity and style," Martinez said, smiling at his pre-match media conference this weekend.

"So, we will show the respect to David Moyes and what he's done at our football club."

Nice line, Roberto.

"We all know," the current Everton manager said of the former one, "that he's the Manchester United manager now, and I'm sure that the reception will be very much different.

"Every Evertonian has got great memories of the job that he did."

Not every Evertonian.

Kevin Sheedy, the former player who coaches Everton's youth team, felt so undervalued by Moyes that he took the opportunity to tweet unpleasantly about the departed manager.

Others, in the commercial department, told reporters that they were glad to see Moyes go because he was taciturn and uncooperative to their needs.

Maybe it was the intense concentration on the dressing room that maintained all their jobs. Moyes suggests that Everton players keep in touch with him by text.

The bottom line is that he feels he left good things in place at Everton - and that Martinez is doing "terrific work" in his place.


Everton v Man United mio TV HD Ch102 and StarHub Ch227,11.10pm