As promised, I start this FM20 series with the comprehensive guide to my chosen club, Manchester United. Although it was started in Beta, I intend to update the player profiles (and injuries) to reflect the full release data. So be sure to check back on Nov 19! I hope you find this guide useful, especially if you are starting your FM20 career at Old Trafford. Red Devils are a great team with a lot of potential which should nevertheless provide a challenge even to seasoned managers. After all, the challenge is in figuring out the strengths of each player and how to best use them. For this reason, I am including attribute screenshots (simply click on player’s name in bold) for all the players discussed in this guide. So let us see what United has to offer in FM20!
Previosly on Young Devils Series:
I have to say it upfront. I am very excited to play with this Manchester United squad in FM20. Not the NSFW kind of excited but still as ecstatic as one can get for a bunch of stats on a computer screen. It is probably the youngest Red Devil squad that I have seen in the last decade. And one that I have not been this thrilled to manage since the FM14 days. And United had young Shrek playing for them then!
So yeah, it is quite brilliant! Solskjær did a much needed cleaning during the summer. The team has been revitalized as some of the deadwood was offloaded (there is no “i” in teamwork, Alexis). The average age of the squad is a mere 26 now, with only a few key players older than that and plenty who are much younger. Undoubtedly, it is a smaller team than it was last year, more lean and tactically focused. Which makes my job that much easier when starting out.
I support the notion that you should develop a tactical system that best suits your players, and not vice verse. I put a lot of emphasis in my last article on recreating Bielsa’s famous 3-3-1-3 tactic. With this goal in mind (and not completely blind to the irony) I chose United because of the strength of its squad and its overall suitability to this style.
So from left to right, here are my first choice attackers.
Anthony Martial – now that Sanchez is out, Martial solidified his spot as our top wide attacker. Perhaps he has not reached his early hype of being the next Thierry Henry (hello Mbappe!), Anthony is still an exceptional player. As quick and physically strong as he is technical. Can easily lead the line as the central striker but his quickness and dribbling are of better service to us on the left flank. Unless you begin in early preseason, Martial will start with with 2-3 months long injury.
Marcus Rashford – England’s young superstar. It says something that at tender age of 21, he already made 36 national appearances. The 21-year-old has the potential to be one of the best strikers in the game. The departure of Lukaku can allow him to flourish as the primary all-out striker. Similarly to Martial, he is comfortable on either wing. But to get his full potential, I would play him up front as the primary striker. Unlike Martial, who is already close to his peak, Rashford still has some growing to do. You just need to “water” him with lots of game time. His attributes suggest that he can develop into a well-rounded complete striker.
Jesse Lingard – exemplary team player who is both mentally strong and intelligent. I would say he is the English equivalent of Thomas Muller. Hence he plays best on the wing, drifting around to find space. Lingard is one of Premier League’s best off-the-ball runners and is a master at getting into dangerous poaching positions. If only his finishing and technical abilities were better he would be world-class player. Luckily, he makes up for his lack of raw talent with unbridled energy, determination and work-rate.
Daniel James – one of the big summer signings at Old Trafford. With Martial injured for almost 3 months, he will be playing a much more important role than was expected. He is all-out winger who is surprisingly fast and technical for his age, although he has to work on the mental side of his game. Daniel should be irreplaceable on the left wing with Martial injured. Once the Frenchman is back, the speedy youngster is your first go-to choice as a sub on either flank. As he gets better I expect him to start competing with Lingard for his spot in the first team.
Juan Mata – has aged like fine Castilian wine. In his youth he was a much more attacking player, often cutting inside from the right wing. This allowed his to register 12 league goals with Chelsea in one season. Now he makes up for a lack of pace with his exquisite first touch, technique, passing and vision. While possessing good enough finishing, composure and agility to be dangerous in attack. In FM20, it is time for him to move into a more static enganche role. Yet static does not mean useless. With less attacking responsibilities, Mata can focus his creativity on assisting others. In this role he can act as an offensive pivot for players to move around. Expect to see more from me in the future about using this interesting role.
Nemanja Matić – another veteran midfielder who like Mata came over from Chelsea during Mourinho’s era. There are good reasons why Jose wanted both the smooth-passing Spaniard and the tough Serb on his squad. Firstly, both Matić and Mata played key roles in Mourinho-managed Chelsea between 2013 and 2016. Secontly, Matić is the perfect foil to Mata. Whereas Mata is the offensive pivot, the Serb is the equivalent defensive pivot. Often used as a holding anchor, screening the defence while providing cover for his more offensive midfield partner.
Paul Pogba – star player, needs no introduction. He is just Pogba. A name suggesting of talent of epic proportions and expectations. After solidifying his world-class status in Italy, he has yet to show what he is fully capable of at his old home. I am not going to go as far as some to claim that his €105 million price tag wasn’t justified in the last three seasons. Judging from his performances for Juve, it probably was. But I still believe that Pogba is capable of much more. A manager just needs to use him in the right system to take advantage of his famous penchant for spectacular. In my tactic, I expect him to be the roaming, dynamic link between the two stationary pivots of Mata and Matić.
My two rotation/sub options in the midfield are Andreas Pereira and Fred. Andreas Pereira is poised to capitalize on the progress he made last season on breaking into the first team. While Pereira will never be our main #10 playmaker, he will be an excellent backup to whoever (Gomes?) will ultimately take up the talismanic enganche mantle from Mata. So while aging Mata is still my first choice for the enganche, I expect Pereira to be his cover and help him stay fit all season.
Fred – Mr.Versatility. The Brazilian did not have the best of starts at Old Trafford. While many fans called for his exit, I actually liked what he brought to the squad as an impact sub. A true jack of all trades, Fred does not especially excel in attack nor defence. But as a sub he is invaluable in how you can slot him in any position in the midfield or on the wings. If healthy, he should always be on a bench for you.
Scott McTominay – definitely a breakout year for the tough Scotsman. He is 22, going on 23, and if he does not show that he cut it as tough holding midfielder then I do not think he will ever be a United player. Like Fred, Scott’s clear advantage is his versatility. So while he might not develop into the next Matic, he could fill in the central defender spot in a pinch due to his strong build and defensive skillset. I originally included him in the defender section before realizing that I had too many.
Harry Maguire – newcomer and world’s most expensive defender. With the price-tag of £80 million, he comes with immense expectations. But is Harry actually worth the price of a luxury ship? Maybe. Maguire is a rare, in-demand commodity, a defender who is comfortable bringing the ball out of defence and making long passes. Its why players like Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt are among the most wanted centre-backs. After-all Juventus paid £75 million for Matthijs de Ligt. While United lost out on both of them, they acquired Maguire and he is in the similar mold. He is very technical smooth passing defender. He even shares two PPMs with van Dijk: “brings ball out of defence” and “tries long range passes”. Add Maguire’s traits of switching ball and running through centre and you got yourself a fine libero playmaker for any system that relies on playing out of the back.
Victor Lindelof – another smooth-passer in the similar mold to Maguire but sans PPMs and much faster. So those who like the Cover-Stopper combination, can set Maguire as the Stopper and have Lindelof cover any missed balls or fast breakthroughs. Honestly it is one of my favourite partnerships in the the game. With defenders like Maguire and Lindelof, United can become a real force in playing out from the back. This perfectly suits my plan of emulating Bielsa who always prized technical defenders who pass the ball around rather than hoofing it.
My subs in defence are Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones:
Eric Bailly – a decent substitute defender. He is surprisingly fast for such a strong defender. Although his middling composure and concentration will prevent him from being my starter. If you start after early preseason, he is injured (5-6 months).
Axel Tuanzebe – my number one sub option. Mentally he is already better than Bailly and Jones, especially in the composure department. Axel’s physical and technical game will catch up as long as I play him often. He is only 21 y.o so should develop into a key defender for the team. Especially if tutored by Bailly and Jones.
Phil Jones – another veteran on the team as he is already on his 9th season with the Devils. Of the current players, only Ashley Young and David De Gea wore red and whites for nine seasons in a row. He starts transfer listed but it will be hard to get rid of the old stalwart Phil. Once famed for his powerful build, he is still quite sturdy if more injury prone. I do not foresee playing him more than as an sub for important games. His experience will be invaluable tutoring young Tuanzebe.
Luke Shaw – our current best wingback. While he appears balanced in both attack and defence, his lack of crossing holds him back from being complete in this role. I expect him to move into a substitute role as Wan-Bissaka and Dalot improve.
Ashley Young – our captain and at 34 y.o not so young anymore. Appears to still be a fine attacking fullback despite his age. On paper that is his attributes look more than good enough to fill this demanding role. Expect his fitness to drop throughout the season. So that acceleration and pace might easily go down 2-3 notches in a season. Known as a highly versatile, adaptable player (moving from winger and forward to defender), one cannot blame him for aging. I will be happy to get one more season out of this magnificent veteran. It makes it doubly important that the following two youngsters learn well from him this season to fill in those big shoes.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot are the future of the team in the wingback department. Both are very similar in their attributes, with Bissaka perhaps holding a slight edge due to his defensive capability (that 18 in tackling!). Give them as much game-time as possible and you will have two world-beaters in a year or two.
David De Gea – in my opinion hands down the world’s best goalkeeper and team’s second star player after Pogba He has a cabinet stocked with two Europa trophies, one Premier League, one each of FA Cup and League Cup. More recently, De Gea has been in the PFA Team of the Year four years in a row. Ederson has won that honour in 2019. I still believe that De Gea is the better goalkeeper if you are looking for a traditional keeper to lock down your box and throw away the key. He might not be one to rush out and start plays from the back like Neuer or Lloris, but his Reflexes, Handling and Agility are unmatched. These attributes are really all you need in a keeper, as long as he can pass short to the more creative defender.
Sergio Romero – a decent backup but inferior to De Gea in all the key areas. Basically unless De Gea is injured or resting, there is no reason you should be using Romero. With De Gea being 28 y.o, United are set in the keeper department for at least another 8 years. And seeing how Romero’s contract runs out in 2021, I would not look for a younger backup until the summer of 2021.
Young Devils – Four Understudies on the 1st Team
In accord with my save goal of developing youth, I decided to introduce four teenagers into the first team squad. Even before I had access to the game, I knew which ones I was going to choose. The quartet of Gomes, Garner, Greenwood and Chong. All four are considered wonderkids, have been lighting up U23 team so far this season and have been getting considerable media attention as a result.
While Pogba is United’s current worldclass star, Mason Greenwood (17 y.o) is the starlet in the making. He is the kind of player who, if played consistently, could your club-defining player. Beckham for the new era. No kidding, this kid will be amazing. Labelled by Solskjær as the best finisher he has seen, Greenwood definitely has the weight of expectations on his shoulders. And this kid has a lot to live up to. Its rare you see such technical skill and composure in a 17 year old.
Angel Gomes (18 y.o) was brilliant in FM19 where he tended to develop into a great little playmaker. Looks like he got even better in 2020 version. He has been compared to Ronaldinho due to his dribbling, composure and creativity.
Gomes’ size is actually an advantage as it gives him low centre of gravity, an important trait of all great enganches. In many ways Angel is like Paul Scholes, sans his defensive strength. While small he is difficult to get off the ball, sees the play seconds before others and can dictate a game with his intelligence. As I expect him to take over Mata’s playmaker mantle, he will be my main sub in #10 position.
James Garner (18 y.o) – if Gomes draws comparisons to Scholes then Garner could be the next Michael Carrick. He is a raw talent but has the offensive and defensive discipline to shine in the deep playmaker anchoring role occupied by Matić currently.
Tahith Chong – at 19 y.o is the oldest of my Young Devils but similarly with plenty of potential to develop into a star winger. Early in his career he started out as a classic throwback winger, hugging the touchline and showing off his speed and tricks as he zoomed up and down the flank. Quiet shocking in someone so tall and slim. And this kid can really move! Since then Chong has become much more comfortable at playing on both flanks and cutting inside from the right.
So that is it for the current crop of Manchester United players. I will be taking all 25 players mentioned above on my first ever campaign with the Red Devils in Football Manager 2020. Players that I did not mention won’t be included. They are Sanchez, Smalling and Henderson and start the season loaned out. Our 3rd goalkeeper Lee Grant is inferior to Romero and hopefully we will not need his services. Timothy Fosu-Mensah (slightly worse than Tuenzebe) would be a good loan option but starts with a 2-3 months injury.
Hope you enjoyed this little guide and continue to follow the Young Devils series as it develops and the wonderkids go from U23 to Champions League glory!
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