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. A club struggling to find a new identity to get back to winning ways. A club with both finances and facilities to turn things around. Welcome to Manchester United.
The “Red Devils” was 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, comes into the picture. You have just been appointed manager and the fans have high hopes that you will be the “New Sir Alex”. As you sit down for your first meating with the board you are introduced to one of the new features of FM20, the Club Vision.
The Club Vision is in my opinion an excellent addition to this year’s version of the game and gives you a great overview of what is expected of the club and of you as a manager. The board’s expectations are graded from “Favoured” to “Required” in importance and are divided into two sections; “Club culture” and “5 year plan”.
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 three years and actually win it in your fourth 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 Champions League straight away in your first season.
There is really nothing to complain about here. The stadium Old Trafford has a capacity above 70000 and you have top of the line facilities at your disposal in all areas on and off the pitch.
A fairly well-rounded squad, even though the attentive reader quickly notices an abundance of central defenders. The age structure suggests a team ready to challenge straight away, with a good mix of young talent and more experienced players. More than half of the squad consists of English players, but the ones standing out are the international stars, at least when it comes to wages. Chilean winger/striker Alexis Sánchez, French midfield general Paul Pogba and Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea all earn more than £1M per month, making them the three best paid (and according to some fans overpaid) players. Sánchez was more or less considered redundant and was subsequently loaned out to Inter Milan, but we’ll take a closer look a the two remaining.
David De Gea
In many people’s opinion one of the world’s best keepers. Only 28 years old, but it feels like he’s been around for ever. As a well-rounded keeper in his prime he will probably deliver top quality goalkeeping for several more years, but it’s at a truly hefty wage.
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.
The third player to look at is the opposition of the duo above in the sense that he’s both young and English.
The fact that he’s been capped over 30 times at the age of 21 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.
Talents – The Development center
Another great addition to this year’s game is the Development center. Here you’ll find an overview of the up-and-coming players of your club. It is an excellent tool to help you keep track of your talents and wonderkids in your pursuit of nurturing the next “Class of 92”, filled with potential future world class players and Manchester United icons.
Well, perhaps the next “golden generation” is at least a couple of years away. The U23 squad are deemed “Average”, but the U18s are considered “Strong”. Two players are considered “First team candidates”, so we’ll take a closer look at them.
A player that still mainly resides in the U23 squad even though he’s been capped for the Netherlands three times already. This is probably, at least partly, due to the large number of central defenders in the first team squad, but he doesn’t look more than decent in the important “defensive triad” of Heading-Marking-Tackling. He looks great physically, but he’ll need to improve his defensive skills quite a lot in order to become a first time player.
The other player being close to the first team squad is 22 year old goalkeeper Dean Henderson. He is currently on loan at Sheffield United at the start of the game, but considering the age of both back-up keepers Romero and Grant, he’ll be a useful back-up to De Gea next season.
The most promising players who are not considered close to the first team can be found in the section “Ones to watch”. For me, two players stand out here in Angel Gomes and Hannibal Mejbri. I’m sure the rest are promising and all, but to be predicted to become “potentially better than Fred/Dalot/Shaw” probably means that you won’t end up a superstar.
Angel Gomes is an academy player with strengths and playing style resembling Marcus Rashford. With a potential ability of 3.5 stars it is however unlikely that he’ll become good enough to be a force to be reckoned with.
Young gun Mejbri on the other hands has bags of potential. A potential ability of 5 stars always gets an FM manager’s hopes up, but is not in any way a guarantee for success. After being purchased from AS Monaco for a fee of £9M last year at least expectations are high for him to turn into the “next Paul Pogba” with similarities both in stature and playing style.
Now some of you might be screaming “Wait! You forgot someone! You forgot the biggest talent of them all” but I assure you that I have not forgotten. If a player is already in the first team squad he doesn’t show up in the Development center report, no matter how young or how much of a wonderkid he is. Therefore, I give you…
Probably the brightest shining young diamond to come out of the academy since Marcus Rashford. Already in the first team squad with a 5 star potential he could very well form a lethal attacking partnership with Rashford sooner rather than later.
Before wrapping this up we’ll 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 apparent. With over £400M 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?
£100M 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 £400M, but on the other hand Man Utd spent quite a lot of money on Maguire and Wan-Bissaka ahead of the season. If you really need to strengthen the squad there are a couple of players that are quite easy to sell as well, which would provide you with a bit of room in the wage budget as well.
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
Considering Manchester United’s league finishes in the last couple of years the board expectations seem reasonable, but will provide a tough challenge. You have to manage a top 4 finish in the first season, but then you are allowed another two seasons for a rebuild before you are required to challenge for the Premier League title and start the beginning of your dynasty!
If you need a bit of inspiration you can follow my own Man Utd blog series here, where I add a bit of a twist and up the difficulty level!