Are you ready for a real “Sleeping giant” challenge? If the answer is yes, you’ve certainly come to the right place. A club with a great legacy, perhaps to the extent of it becoming a burden. Struggling to find a new identity to get back to winning ways, but equipped both with finances and facilities to turn things around. Welcome to this Manchester United club guide.
The “Red Devils” were founded in 1878 as Newton Heath, changing name to the current Manchester United in 1902.
The club is viewed as one of the most successful in English football history, having won more trophies than any other English club. You need quite the trophy room to hold the silverware after 20 League titles, 12 FA Cups, 5 League Cups, 21 FA Community Shields, 3 UEFA Champions Leagues, 1 UEFA Europa League, 1 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, 1 UEFA Super Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 1 FIFA Club World Cup.
Their most recent period of success came under legendary manager Alex Ferguson, who took over as manager in 1986 after Ron Atkinson. In 1993 Manchester United won their first league title since 1967, but this was truly only the beginning. The next 20 years became an era of unprecedented success for the club, or any other club for that matter. After another 12 league titles, 4 FA Cups, 3 League Cups and 2 Champions Leagues Alex Ferguson received a well-deserved knighthood for his efforts.
The years following the departure of Sir Alex have been characterized by a lack of success and a steady change of managers. Moyes, van Gaal, Mourinho and Solskjaer have together managed to lead the club to one disappointing league finish after another. The fans are growing tired…
What about now?
This is where you, the new manager, come into the picture. You have just been appointed manager. The fans have high hopes that you will be the “New Sir Alex”. As you sit down for your first meeting with the board you are introduced to the Club Vision.
This might be the longest list of visions I’ve ever seen on Football Manager, but that’s what it’s like to be manager of Man Utd.
Manchester United have a legacy to live up to, a legacy of playing attractive football and developing players from their own academy, which is reflected in the board’s expectations, as well as the fans’. Many are the fans that directly link the success of the 1990s and 2000s with the “Fergie Fledglings” or “Class of 1992”, a group of players that won the 1992 FA Youth Cup together and then went on to make a true impact for the club, both on and off the field. Just as many were the fans that wanted José Mourinho out as a manager even though his Man Utd team was winning, simply because of his boring defensive style of football.
So, if you choose to manage Manchester United you will need to please both fans and board by playing attacking, free-flowing football, using the youngsters from the academy. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it!? Well, this is where the “5 year plan” comes in. Of course it isn’t enough for you to get a bunch of kids together, playing some nice looking football. The board wants results as well. You must challenge for the Premier League title within four years and actually win it in your fifth season at the helm. This means that you have at least some room for a rebuild, but you can’t rock the boat too much, since you are required to qualify for the Europa League straight away in your first season.
Manchester United Club Guide: Facilities
To aid you, Man Utd provide fantastic facilities, both for the first team players and the Academy. State of the art facilities is the highest level for training and youth facilities on FM21. With excellent Junior Coaching and Youth Recruitment the very best boys will be coming through the youth intakes as well. But what does the actual team look like?
Manchester United Club Guide: Best XI
The best XI actually doesn’t look all that bad. Relative new signings Telles, Fernandes, van de Beek and Cavani strengthen the side, but the feeling is that there’s room for improvement, especially at the back.
Manchester United Club Guide: Squad
If we look at the squad overview this notion grows stronger. Going forward this looks like an interesting squad. A combination of experience and younger talent.
I will focus on three players that are important enough to be classified as key players in my book. The first one is perhaps a bit controversial, but in FM21 this player still seems really solid.
Even though Paul Pogba has been struggling to reach the heights he had a few seasons ago in real life, he still looks like a really solid midfield option for FM21. At the tender age of 16 Pogba came to Manchester United from French side Le Havre and after spending a couple of seasons in the academy he was offered a spot in the first squad. However, limited appearances forced a move to Italian giants Juventus. While at Juve he developed from a wonderkid into a world-class central midfielder and the United fans were crying for his return. Since his comeback he has mixed abysmal performances with majestic ones. If Paul is in the mood he’ll be a real asset for you. If not, well then he’ll just be expensive, with a weekly wage of £300K!
Perhaps because of the irrational nature of Paul Pogba’s performances, Man Utd brought in Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon last season. Combining excellent flair and passing with a fantastic work rate and stamina, this is a player that can be used in pretty much any midfield role. He only lacks a bit of ball winning abilities, with a poisitioning of 8 and tackling of 10.
The fact that he’s been capped over 30 times at the age of 22 highlights the fact that Marcus Rashford appeared in English football at just the right time. Being the successor of Wayne Rooney, both for United and England, the expectations on him delivering are sky high. Excellent speed combined with good dribbling ability and flair makes him a threat both as a striker and as an inside forward. Probably one of the keys to your offensive success.
Ok, so that’s going forward. Three key players and another couple of good players behind them. But. Both the defensive line and the keepers could use strengthening, while the squad has plenty of quality going forward. This is where the depth chart comes in handy, let’s use it to find out how it actually looks.
Manchester United Club Guide: Squad Depth
This screen might seem a bit cluttered and tough to navigate, but it is very helpful if you know what to look for. Here they basically list the positional depth for every single position, which is the reason it feels cluttered. Your job is to ignore the positions that you don’t intend to use and instead focus on the ones that are important to your tactic. Generally the defense looks weak. Using wing backs seem like a bad decision according to the depth chart and there are no great defensive midfielders in the squad. The feeling from seeing the best XI and squad view still stands. The defense needs improving.
Let’s take a quick glance at the financial side of things at the “biggest team in the world” as the board so delicately put it.
There is no shortage of cash at this club, that quickly becomes obvious. With over £280M in the bank you could label the financial situation as secure to say the least.
So, what sort of elbow-room do you have to improve the squad to challenge top duo Man City and Liverpool?
£52M is a lot of money to both me and you. In modern day football however, this is not a huge sum. It’s a bit low when comparing it to the overall bank balance of £287M, but with COVID-19 making everyone’s starting budget a lot smaller than usual, this is actually a decent budget compared to others. If you really need to strengthen the squad there are a couple of players that are quite easy to sell, which would provide you with a bit of room in the wage budget as well.
Before we delve into the transfer market though, let’s see if we can use the magnificent academy to find a few more or less hidden gems.
Manchester United Club Guide: Youth Squad
This is an overview of the players aged 21 or younger. My first impression is that it’s a slight disappointment. I know, I know. Potential ability is linked to both reputation and level of current players at the club, which means that I shouldn’t be too bummed out about the fact that there isn’t a single 5 star potential player here. It would be different in another club with slightly lower reputation and quality of players. Then both Greenwood and Galbraith would have had a 5 star potential. Considering the fact that Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba have the highest current ability in the Man Utd squad with 4 stars, eleven players aged 21 are younger are predicted to have the potential to reach that level. We are going to focus on three of them.
These three are not necessarily the ones with the highest potential according to FM21. However, for one reason or another, they are the ones I consider most interesting at the moment.
He’s only 18 years old, but already a regular member of the Man Utd match day squads. Probably the brightest shining young diamond to come out of the academy since Marcus Rashford. Already in the first team squad with a 4.5 star potential he could very well form a lethal attacking partnership with Rashford sooner rather than later.
Brandon Williams is also a player to consider as a first squad player rather than anything else. With strong defensive abilities combined with a nice bit of speed, he could fill in for AWB any day. His great determination and Perfectionist personality will ensure that he continues to develop as well.
After being purchased from AS Monaco for a fee of £5M possibly rising to £10M in 2019, expectations are high. Can Hannibal Mejbri to turn into the “next Paul Pogba” ? He sure shares similarities both in stature and playing style. His determination of 17 and Perfectionist personality makes him a very good candidate to develop!
A good squad, perhaps lacking a bit at the back. An esteemed youth academy filled with talents with mailny attacking skills. A decent amount of money at your disposal. If I were you, I’d add those facts together and land in the signing of a central defender!
I’d go for José Giménez from Atletico Madrid. The 25-year-old Uruguayan international is the perfect fit in my opinion. A good age, excellent defensive abilities and nice physical attributes makes him appealling. A Perfectionist personality on top of that makes him a potential leader going forward. But is he available and interested. Let’s use one of the new FM21 features to find out. By asking his agent we get quite a lot of useful information.
He’s interested, but would require both an important role and a high wage. We could afford it though! What about his fee? £54M to £70M is a little more than what we have in our transfer budget, but by adjusting the budget or selling a backup player, José Giménez could be yours. Could this be the signing that brings much needed stability to you team!? At least that’s what I think.
Manchester United Club Guide: Final verdict
As mentioned in the introduction a Manchester United save has all the ingredients of a true “Sleeping giant” save:
- A history full of silverware
- A frustrating dry spell in the last few years
- Good conditions for a turn-around
- Finances in balance
- Good facilities
- At least a couple of decent young talents and an excellent Academy
Considering Manchester United’s league finishes in the last couple of years the board expectations seem reasonable. The media are predicting you to finish in 4th place. You must reach a top 5 finish in the first season, but then you have another three seasons to rebuild. Then you are required to challenge for the Premier League title and start the beginning of your dynasty!
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