Moyes & Everton deserve glory
Habitually portrayed as the archetypal dour Scot, Everton manager David Moyes was sporting a smile so fixed that even a surgeon's scalpel might not have successfully guaranteed its removal.
And why not after the finest day of his career and tangible reward for seven years of toil and sound footballing practice in the shape of an FA Cup final appearance against Chelsea on 30 May?
Moyes carried a cup as well as a beaming grin into his post-match Wembley briefing - and if it contained something bubbly after Everton had secured their first final in 14 years with Sunday's penalty shoot-out win over Manchester United, he was entitled to his moment of celebration.
Yes, this was another awful match played out on Wembley's heavily criticised surface but when Phil Jagielka calmy slotted home Everton's decisive spot-kick, Moyes' already glowing reputation was given another layer of gloss.
Moyes has built an Everton team in his own image and likeness - hungry, driven, focused, honest, hard-working and talented - and you can add streetwise nous to that list.
In the build-up to the semi-final, Everton's manager chose to debate the appointment of Mike Riley as referee, even openly discussing speculation that the official was a Manchester United fan.
Only Riley can tell you if he felt Moyes' piercing gaze burning into him or could hear his critical words whispering in his ears when he somehow decided the obviously felling of Danny Welbeck by Jagielka was not a penalty in the 68th minute.
It was as stonewall as it gets. Yet something put the seed of doubt in Riley's mind when there should have been none and Everton escaped.
Moyes was all wide-eyed innocence when asked if his words were premeditated and produced a dramatic desired effect, insisting: "Us managers don't do that." The only sound to be heard might just have been Moyes' tongue drilling a hole in his cheek.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, an old master Moyes is only too happy to take tips from, may have had his suspicions, but he was surprisingly sanguine and philosophical as everyone awaited comments as incendiary as his initial reaction to the decision had proved.
If anyone had doubted Ferguson's desire to win the FA Cup and suggested his line-up showed a lack of respect to the great, old tournament, a furious, arm-flapping war dance, which prompted fears the great man's head might actually explode, answered those questions.
But dare we even suggest that the master of mind games had been outflanked by one of his star pupils?
Ferguson faced further questions about his weakened team but this was a day for Moyes and Everton - who have been fielding an understrength team of their own for some time after the loss of Yakubu, their most reliable goalscorer, and Mikel Arteta, their most creative force.
It has been Moyes' marshalling of those depleted resources - and the response of his players - that makes a current sixth place in the Premier League and an FA Cup final appearance such an impressive return so far this season.
The days when Moyes was being questioned after a troubled summer in the transfer market and there was uncertainty over his own future before signing a new, long-term contract seemed an age away as he joined in the celebrations at Wembley.
And when Everton's players had not been at their best during the game, a seething wall of sound produced by their supporters stepped in to provide the missing inspiration.
Everton's fans have fashioned pessimism and long-suffering into a fine art but the wild scenes among those in royal blue at the final whistle suggested the long wait to grace a showpiece final had been worthwhile.
The coaches streamed back to Merseyside from London festooned in flags, scarves and smiles, with the supporters on board anticipating the chance to pursue greater glory at the end of May. They have waited all this time for a Wembley appearance and two come along at once.
At the heart of it all was Moyes, who knew he needed this victory, and now preferably some silverware, to demonstrate that he will not bang his head on a glass ceiling at Everton forever. The opportunity to win the FA Cup will only fuel the desires of both manager and players.
Moyes has not been able to wield a giant chequebook, relying instead on the occasional big-money buys and sound, carefully researched captures from the Championship, exemplified by Tim Cahill, Jagielka and Joleon Lescott, who was an outstanding figure at Wembley.
Moyes racks up the air miles abroad and punishes his car at home searching out more like that trio - something he must continue to do unless chairman Bill Kenwright can attract an investor.
One thing is certain, Kenwright's manager, players and supporters can all be used as star selling points to potential purchasers.
Moyes has encouraged young talent such as Jack Rodwell, who made a composed appearance as substitute, and James Vaughan, who swept aside the cobwebs of months out of action to show steely nerve in the penalty shoot-out.
Emerging talent, in the absence of the sort of cash available to United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham, will gets its chance at Everton. Indeed, the work of Moyes must be regarded as the gold standard for any club unable to exert serious financial muscle on the Premier League's elite group.
Everton owner Kenwright threw his arms out wide and shouted to the heavens at the moment of triumph on Sunday, while Moyes calmly sought out Ferguson and added United to a list of FA Cup victims that already includes Liverpool and Aston Villa.
I asked Moyes how significant this victory was as a sign of progress both for him and Everton, a demonstration that there is a next level for both manager and club to move on to together.
He said: "I think it is very important, not for me but for Everton as a football club. I said I thought we needed European football, and we have begun to get better at getting into that. Then I said we needed runs in cups, and we have started to get that.
"I said this game was preparation for the final. Hopefully it has helped us prepare again for what we have to do in a month's time."
And what Moyes and Everton have to do in a month's time is find a way to outmanouevre Chelsea's outstanding coach Guus Hiddink to win their first trophy since the 1995 FA Cup triumph against United.
Moyes was still smiling as he made his Wembley exit - ready for a Cup final dress rehearsal at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday and relishing the prospect of eclipsing the biggest win of managerial career.