Spain restored Ernest Hemingway after World War I. Can it save David Moyes from his Manchester nightmares, too?


Ernest Hemingway came to Basque country after the Great War. In clipped sentences, he wrote about men who were men, writing, drinking, fucking, and obliterating the charged undercurrents of war-sick despair that attended their rare moments of sobriety.

At the center of his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, is the traditional Spanish bullfight. Each sentence marvels at the matador’s effortless grace, taunting the bull with his wine-red cape before spilling the bull’s blood in the dirt. It’s a saccharine victory, a powerful, broad animal cut down in its prime for the gawking crowd, serving as a metaphor for the barbarous war that Hemingway had just endured.

But Spain restored Hemingway, and last summer, another Anglophile descended into Basque country hoping to shrug off a year’s worth of Mancunian sorrow: David Moyes. Hired to lead Real Sociedad, the Scotsman hoped the Spanish sun would cast out the ghosts of Old Trafford that haunted his sleep.

After half a season in charge, a happier-looking Moyes has steered his Sociedad side solidly into La Liga’s midtable. In January, he even managed to engineer a 1-0 victory over Barcelona. Like his online casino Everton teams, Sociedad play solid, unspectacular English football. It’s a comfortable fit for Moyes to be again on the outskirts of the Champions League, able to pilfer an occasional victory over a super club, and keep his side above the relegation zone.

But one wonders if Moyes will ever enter the arena of a big club again, knowing that a flash of red cape could send marrow-chilling shots of fear down his spine. If he does, Moyes must be ready to charge at the matador and laugh at his fluttering cape, no longer fearing the color of his short-lived nightmare, the color of Sir Alex Ferguson’s disapproving stare.


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