When Sir Alex Ferguson retired having guided Manchester United to the 2012/13 Premier League title, the thirteenth of his legendary reign, even the most pessimistic of fans would not have imagined that they would struggle to even compete for another title in the decade to follow.

Fans who were used to almost constant success were suddenly faced with mediocrity, and despite some definite high points David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, José Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Ralf Rangnick have all flattered to deceive. 

The current man in the hot-seat is Erik ten Hag, who has brought two trophies in two seasons, but what can only be described as a horror campaign has seen United eliminated from the Champions League early despite a favourable group, and finish eighth in the Premier League – their worst league position since 1989/90. 

Despite such a poor season, there is a feeling amongst the majority of the fan base that a new era may finally be starting, thanks to Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS coming in as minority owners, but crucially also taking control of football operations. Since this change in infrastructure changes have already been made, with Omar Berrada coming in from rivals Manchester City as the new Chief Executive, Jason Wilcox coming in as a Technical Director and a well publicised pursuit of Newcastle United’s Dan Ashworth.

Rumours were rife that INEOS would look to bring in a new manager – their own man who more suitably fit the profile of a ‘head coach’, rather than a manager who would demand input in every area as Sir Alex Ferguson famously had.

Although Erik ten Hag has ultimately been allowed to remain in the job the rumours of his imminent sacking came thick and fast, particularly in the run-up to the FA Cup final, which United went on to win, with rumours still not subsiding and in fact intensifying that he would be relieved of his duties the day after his Wembley triumph.  

This save will forge an alternate reality where ten Hag was indeed fired the day after the FA Cup final, and we will be taking the reins to hopefully bring success to the INEOS era.

Save Structure

In order to pick up the INEOS story in the immediate aftermath of the FA Cup Final, I am using a Real Fixtures file, as well as a Custom Start Date file to recreate the 2023/24 season as accurately as possible. These are available from www.fmrte.com, although you will need to purchase a license in order to download them. As the real fixtures file only takes care of league fixtures and not cup ties, I reloaded the file a whopping 91(!) times in order to have Manchester United lift the FA Cup, meaning that we will be playing Europa League football in season one.

Funny story, Manchester United also won the FA Cup in attempt 7, but they inexplicably also made the Champions League Final which was not only unrealistic, but also ruined what I needed from the file!

There are a couple of things that won’t be entirely realistic; Although Omar Berrada is already at the club, Jason Wilcox and Dan Ashworth are still with their previous clubs, and although I may well make approaches for them, there is of course no guarantee they will join. 

Also, as a result of our FA Cup win, Chelsea have indeed been bumped into the Europa Conference League, but Newcastle United are also listed as qualifiers for the competition which is no longer the case in real life. 

The last is the outcome of the Championship Play-Off Final, as in this instance Leeds United won out over Southampton. Although I would prefer these things to be accurate to real life, in the grand scheme of things they are relatively minor and won’t affect the realism of the save too much.

In terms of my save setup, I have loaded England down to National League North/South level, the top two divisions of the other major European leagues, plus the top divisions of Scotland, Brazil and Argentina.  

When playing a save where Champions League football is likely I always include at least the top five nations as playable leagues, in order to give more realistic progression from clubs as the save progresses. The Scottish Premiership feels like a division where some of our young players could flourish on loan, and also a place to pick up some talented youngsters, while Brazil and Argentina are wonderkid central and speak for themselves. 

For the first time since this year’s Early Access, I’ll be using a skin that displays player and staff attributes. Despite the fact that I adore the Mustermann Iconic skin that I’ve used almost exclusively this year, there are a couple of reasons for the switch. 

Firstly, although it is a return to the ‘standard’, after eight months of not truly knowing how good a player is it feels like a move that will freshen the game up for me as we approach Football Manager 2025. Secondly, using Mustermann Iconic has made me approach aspects of the game in different ways, and I’m keen to bring those approaches back into a numerical skin and ensure that I don’t slip back to old habits.

Core Principles

I don’t tend to set a massive amount of restrictions in my saves, in regards to being an academy only save or working to particular wage or transfer restrictions, for example. I tend to just try to bring as much realism as I can to the save while also having an enjoyable playing experience. With that being said, there are a few things I’ll be looking to ensure I either implement or maintain during this save.

Smart Signings

I’ll be covering our transfer strategy in full in a future post, but it’s clear for everybody to see that Manchester United need to make a change to their approach in the transfer market. The ratio of successful signings in the post-Ferguson era would probably sit somewhere in the region of one in every six or seven, which is an awful record. Added to that the extortionate transfer fees and wages shelled out for some truly unworthy players, and a sheer lack of ability to sell players for anything near their value because of this, the club’s recruitment is up there with one of its very biggest problems. 

Although Manchester United can obviously field a very talented side, the squad has some real problems and is in need of a major overhaul. Trimming the fat and making some funds for new recruits will be priority number one, before expanding the operation to put Manchester United at the forefront of the transfer market once more.

Squad Composition

Tying in nicely with the recruitment strategy, I’ll be looking to keep a realistic squad composition throughout the save, trying to treat the playing staff as people rather than just a set of numbers. I’m not looking to build a squad of twenty-five wonderkids as soon as humanly possible while selling all of our best players in the process, personalities and experience will count for a lot and less talented players may be kept around to offer depth as long as the rationale suits.

As well as this, I’ll be looking to address one thing that I am particularly guilty of, which is bloating the squad with extra signings to pre-emptively cover injuries before they happen. Manchester United have never been afraid to give a young player an opportunity when needed, and it’s part of the reason that so many youngsters succeed at the club. I’ll be looking to lean into this and give deserving young players the chance to step up if gaps appear in the squad.

Club Restructuring

This of course won’t be an entirely realistic aspect of the save, as Erik ten Hag won’t be in charge of the continuing recruitment of staff. However, I think it is important that I focus on improving the club as a whole and not just the playing staff, and so will be taking an active role in making sure our staffing is up to scratch across all areas. I will also consider the areas where I may be willing to delegate responsibility to the staff to improve realism but not reduce my enjoyment of the save.

Youth Development

Youth development is the sheer lifeblood of the United way. Recently, Ethan Wheatley has become Manchester United’s 250th academy graduate to play for the first-team, and the club holds an astonishing record of naming at least one academy player in every matchday squad for over 85 years! That is absolutely insane, and I will not be the person to end that streak! 

As a personal little aside, I’d like to create what I’ll be calling the Class of 2011. Although Manchester United won the FA Youth Cup in 2011, with players such as Pogba and Lingard in the side, I’m actually referring to a save I had with United back on Football Manager 2011. I’ve mentioned this save a couple of times in previous posts, most notably when creating the Danny Birchall list at Tokyo Verdy. I brought through some sensational youth intake newgens in that save, but also supplemented them with some youngsters brought in for nominal fees who then went on to become world beaters. This is something I’ll talk about further in the future, but is a part of the save I’m exceptionally excited for.  

There’s no time to waste getting stuck into the save, although there’s a full summer of international football before we can get stuck into pre-season, some early decisions need to be made as there are contracts expiring in just a month’s time!

Until next time…


  • adam_otbfm

    Adam, known in the Football Manager (FM) realm as @adam_otbfm, is a fervent gamer and content creator. With a penchant for football simulations, Adam delves into the intricacies of FM, sharing his findings on his blog "On the Break." His creative ventures include replicating football legends like Kaka in the virtual pitch, showcasing a blend of nostalgia and modern gameplay. Adam's musings extend to social platforms like Twitter, where he actively engages with the FM community, sharing his gaming journey with @SJK_Seinajoki. His insightful content and avid participation enrich the FM community, making him a valued member in this virtual football world.

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4 thoughts on “The United Way – Introduction

  1. Sensational start here Adam.

    What a fantastic way to round out this game cycle. I look forward to seeing what’s to come.

    All the best with the save.

  2. Do you have the custom database available for download, or maybe even a save file with the right fa cup result to share?

    1. Unfortunately not, the custom database isn’t my work and therefore I wouldn’t be in a position to redistribute it, and the save file won’t work without the custom DB. Sorry!

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