David Moyes exclusive: West Ham need to move on - Champions League is the aim now

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, David Moyes talks Champions League aims, how West Ham fans have changed and why it is not a good time to play his side; watch West Ham vs Man Utd live on Sky Sports Premier League from 1pm on Super Sunday; kick-off 2pm

David Moyes exclusive interview

After Thursday night's 2-0 win at Dinamo Zagreb, the West Ham Twitter account posted a video of travelling fans singing the manager's name - "David Moyes' Claret and Blue Army."

Those commenting underneath wondered whether this was the first time the club's fans had sung a manager's name with such vigour, or at all, since Harry Redknapp was in charge some 20 years ago.

Given this time last year Moyes was favourite to be the next Premier League manager sacked - they started the 2020/21 season with two defeats - now seems a good time to reflect on a remarkable turnaround.

Moyes has more than earned the fans' adulation. But he insists they have changed, too.

"I think you have got to earn it from any supporters at any football club," he tells Sky Sports. "You have to earn the right for your name to be chanted. The West Ham supporters have been patient with me as well, when I first came in I'm not sure I was everybody's choice but I always felt that given the right time and chances I could turn this club around. It's got great potential.

"The supporters themselves have changed at West Ham over the last 18 months. The support we have had in the games has been incredible. In Zagreb it was great. It's great they are chanting my name, but I see a change in them as well.

"People are saying they see a different West Ham team on the pitch; I'm seeing a completely different support. I'm seeing a positive, upbeat crowd. The away crowd is unbelievable, and when we had Leicester on the Monday Night Football, it was a brilliant support, a brilliant game."

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Moyes praised the club's supporters for the backing his side is receiving after initial scepticism over his return

West Ham have always been a club with potential - well supported, with a history of producing quality youth and now a 60,000-seater stadium. But few would have predicted just how close they would get to realising that potential under Moyes.

West Ham have won 45 per cent of games in Moyes' second stint - the highest of any Hammers manager in the Premier League era - and ended up two points off the Champions League places last season. They finished just two places above the drop the previous year.

After their first proper European game in 15 years, Moyes and the club continue to look for the next milestone. He is convinced this club need to move on, whether tactically or attitudinally.

It would be easy for Moyes to sit on his achievements at West Ham, even sow the seed of excuse for a potentially underwhelming domestic season with Europa League fatigue and distraction.

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But for Moyes, the mental approach is clear: last season was no flash in the pan. Champions League is the next aim.

After a 1am Friday arrival from Zagreb, asked about potential fatigue in the Super Sunday clash with Manchester United, live on Sky Sports Premier League, Moyes said: "Manchester United played Tuesday, so they have got a Tuesday-Sunday game, we have got a Thursday-Sunday game, it does not quite add up.

"But if we can make the Champions League, then we might have the advantage in that fixture! So the next target is to make the Champions League so that we get a slightly better run of fixtures."

David Moyes
Image: West Ham have won 45 per cent of games in Moyes' second stint

On the pitch, there has been a distinct change in how West Ham use the ball this season. Granted, four Premier League games is a small sample size, but most passing metrics are up - possession is way up, passes are up by nearly 80 per game, and passing accuracy is up.

In 2020/21, despite finishing sixth in the Premier League, West Ham ranked 15th for average possession (42 per cent) and passes (398 per game). Is Moyes now consciously trying to build a West Ham side who can control the ball and dominate games on their terms?

"I think the playing style is something I can keep improving. I would really like to have goals and exciting football but I'm also someone who knows if you do not defend well you do not win games either. You have got to find the correct balance with that.

"But I think West Ham as a club need to move on. There is a chance and potential for West Ham to get better.

"We want to challenge those top teams, and we have done. We are making a pretty good go of it seeing as we came in 18 months ago and the first job was to avoid relegation.

Pablo Fornals celebrates with teammates after giving West Ham the lead
Image: West Ham are unbeaten in their last eight games in all competitions

"So I think when you get that job, to make sure you do not get relegated, you have to find a way of winning the games. At that time we started moving things on; one or two players went, we changed the way we play, we changed the style.

"We are getting better, we have still got a long way to go, but we are certainly improving in a lot of aspects."

Declan Rice's brilliant solo goal in the win at Zagreb showed how useful he can be in both boxes. But it was in his own area, during a defeat at Arsenal in April 2018 in Moyes' first stint at the club, where the manager was public in his criticism of Rice.

After Rice failed to clear a corner leading to a goal at the Emirates, Moyes said: "Why he would duck in the box I've got no idea." He didn't stop there.

Now a dominant midfielder, Rice has morphed himself into an England regular. But while Moyes says Rice is that desired character who will take on criticism, he still sees room for improvement in his game. It's easy to forget he is still only 22.

Declan Rice was on target in West Ham's win
Image: Rice showed his quality in both boxes in Thursday's Europa League win at Dinamo Zagreb

"With your players you want to be able to tell them when they need to improve. I always say to the players once I stop shouting that's when you know I have given up on you. So when I'm roaring you on, being critical, it's because I believe in you, and think you can improve.

"He's turning into a terrific midfield player, we have seen that for England, but we saw it a lot last year. The good thing is he sees it as something he wants to improve on.

"For him to captain the team for the first game back in Europe is a big thing for him. He's 22, I still think there's big room for improvement in a lot of aspects."

Moyes' drive for improvement is infectious. He makes a big claim: "If I could give the players one compliment it would be to say they have all improved individually." Looking across the team, he might be right. Few current Premier League managers can say that.

Moyes
Image: Moyes: "The days where you stayed away from the manager's door has gone."

But what did the 18 months out of the game between his first and second stint at West Ham teach him? He repeats the narrative heard by many top managers these days: young players, and indeed young people, are different now, and football is more about communication and connection than it ever was.

"I have always tried to learn in periods out of work. Done a lot of work for UEFA, done some conferences, tried to watch a lot of games and see what is modern, what is new.

"I have found in management when you get older, you are trying to communicate a lot more with the players. That maybe has not been the case in years gone by, maybe in an era of management I saw the end of. I think it's important the manager evolves as well; I have to keep trying to change and look at myself as well.

"I definitely see a change. The days where you stayed away from the manager's door has gone, there's a lot more communication. It used to be that the manager and players were never that close, it's a different situation now."

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Moyes: "Man Utd? I don't know if it's a good time to play West Ham."

So to Sunday and Manchester United, a side he has not beaten in seven games since leaving Old Trafford in 2014.

Even with differing results in midweek, Moyes is asked whether it is ever a good time to play Manchester United, our last question.

Straight-faced and dead pan, he replies: "I don't know if it's a good time to play West Ham."

How to follow West Ham vs Man Utd

West Ham vs Man Utd is live on Sky Sports Premier League from 1pm; kick-off 2pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle

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