WHEN Sir Alex Ferguson stops being your pal, you know you’re doing something right.
The Manchester United manager, who continues to be prime Premier League puppet-master sat on his Old Trafford perch, is renowned for a friendly approach to managers who he doesn’t deem a threat.
So David Moyes wouldn’t have minded too much when his Scottish compatriot and top-flight counterpart stuck the boot into Everton after United’s 1-0 defeat on the opening weekend of the season.
“Fellaini is a handful,” said Ferguson back in August. “He is a big, tall, gangly lad and they just lumped the ball forward to him.
“That's all they did. They worked from that base all the time and they got a goal from him, so it's justified.”
The suggestion Everton are little more than route-one merchants has continued to linger at the back of the minds of some observers, brought to the fore once again by Steven Gerrard’s mischievous words in the wake of last weekend’s controversial derby draw.
Gerrard later retracted his comments, but in some respects it has done Moyes and his players a favour for discussion over their approach to be brought into the public domain.
Indeed, few could argue Everton have been playing a more expansive game this season – not even Ferguson.
“I know, absolutely, that when Fergie has a dig at you, it means it's a compliment in a way,” says Moyes.
“Maybe we have been competing better against United in recent seasons, and we are beginning to compete better against most of the top clubs now, so that's perhaps why these things are being said.
“I'd sooner get that, them having a dig, than people being nice about us because we've lost. When you're easy beat then it's easy to be nice, but the thing is, we are definitely not easy beat these days.”
Moyes adds: “We are competitive, sure, that's what we do, but we are exciting to watch. We have quality going forward, and at times we have played some incredible football.
“You know what, I don't think too many teams play better football than Everton. I would pay to watch us and there are certainly a lot of teams I wouldn't pay to watch because I get a bit bored with them.”
Everton have become standard bearers for those outside the leading clubs, with Fulham manager Martin Jol, whose team entertain Moyes’s men this afternoon, yesterday declaring them as “the best of the rest” and “an example for so many other clubs”.