Anger management: How David Moyes' furious reaction to THAT head-butt gave Everton's Marouane Fellaini the fear More at www.croozefm.com/sports
“He can be scary. He gave everyone the day off – players and staff – and I had to do a training session with him. Just me and him…”
Face/off: Fearsome Moyes left Fellaini in no doubt how annoyed he was
He may claim he’s “mellowed”, but Manchester United players shouldn’t start thinking David Moyes will be a breath of fresh air compared to the hairdryer ferocity of Sir Alex Ferguson.
At Everton, there is genuine respect and affection for the manager who has transformed many of the squad’s careers, yet they instantly recognise a narrow-eyed toughness within the Scot.
Just ask Marouane Fellaini.
The Belgium international credits Moyes, who will succeed the retiring Fergie as Manchester United manager this summer, with catapulting him into the top tier of players, and describes him as “good guy”.
Yet he also cheerfully admits to being intimidated by the drive and desire of the man who paid £16million to bring him to the Goodison club.
And he offers a hilarious but chilling case in point, when Moyes was reduced to incandescent fury after Fellaini head-butted Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross during a game in December, earning a three-match ban at a crucial stage of the season.
Moyes was so angry, he made the Belgian train all over Christmas with the kids even though he was suspended, and even dragged him in on December 25 itself.
But that wasn’t the worst moment, as Fellaini attests.
“He is a decent man, a great manager, but believe me he can be tough. If you want to win something, to create a good team you have to be hard sometimes with the players – football is like this.
“He can be scary.
“I remember when I was banned after the Stoke game, he gave everyone the day off – everyone: The players, the entire staff – but I came to the training camp to do a training session with him.
“It was just me and him, and it is not easy to go into the camp to face him like that.
“I understood, because I knew I had made a mistake, but you know it’s not easy when you know you have let him down. Just going in there knowing you have to look him in the eye was hard!
“He put me through a tough session… it was a full-on session, running, shooting, passing, everything and very intense, and afterwards I was upset.
“I said afterwards, ‘Arggh, this is bad’, but I am happy when he looked after me, so I understand.”
In explaining the incident, Fellaini can’t suppress a broad smile as he re-lives – even now, five months later – the sweaty feeling of dread that gripped him on his way into training.
Yet he explains it is a measure of the manager, and an example of his desire to get the best out of players in every way possible.
“It was his way of telling me I had let the team down – it is how he is good manager, and he made sure I knew I had to face him,” Fellaini added.
“That way, I knew it was my mistake and I had to make up for it, to try hard to make it up to the team. It didn’t make the journey in to face him any easier though. He is a great manager – he knows when he has to be tough.”
Fellaini recently dyed his hair silver to mark the fundraising efforts of Everton in the Community and the 25th anniversary of the charity, but the next day immediately went back to his natural colour for fear of what his manager would say!
United players may wonder exactly what they are in for next, after enduring Ferguson’s hard-edged approach for so long, but the Belgian star believes the Old Trafford squad are getting a manager with similar outstanding qualities.
And he explained Moyes departs with nothing but good wishes from the Blues squad, for everything he has done for them.
“It is Manchester United – every body wants to manage that club, and he had the big chance, so everybody understands his decision – we are happy for him as he has ambition as well, I think,” he said.
“He was so important to me, he gave me my chance and he has done everything for me. He gave me the confidence to play at this level, I learnt a lot from him.
“Yes, he’s strict! But he’s a good guy, a good manager and every year I progress with him and get to a higher level, so he has been important for me – I can say thank you to him for everything he has done.
“Everybody knows Everton don’t have a big squad but that hasn’t stopped him doing such a great job for this club for 11 years… so good luck for him at Manchester United, and we can say while it is a strange feeling he is going, we are all really happy for him.”
As Fellaini explained, Moyes possesses a fierce ambition to go with his driving desire to win, and in acknowledging that fact he perhaps offered in the process a clue to his own future.
The midfielder has three years left on his current contract, but has a clause which allows him to leave for £23million, and is a target for top European clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal… and perhaps even Man United.
And even though he insists he has never been happier than during his time at Goodison, he does want to test himself at the very summit of the club game.
“Look, we accept the manager is ambitious, and it is Manchester United, so we are happy. And I am ambitious too – of course. I have to be to succeed in football,” he explained.
“I am happy at Everton, I have three more years on my contract after this season, so we will see.
“But of course I am ambitious, everybody wants to play Champions League – it is the most important competition for a player, and I am no different.
“We will see what happens.”