Football Manager 2018: Manchester United Team Guide, Player Ratings & Tactics

After a successful season and back in Europe's elite, you are all set up to take Manchester United to Premier League success once again on FM 18.


Football teams don’t get any bigger than Manchester United. The Red Devils have suffered a lull since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club in 2013, but after winning three trophies last season, the club is back on track. 

£146 million was spent in the summer, and with Jose Mourinho receiving criticism for his highly defensive style, it’s a perfect opportunity for you to come in on Football Manager 2018 and take the reins at the Theatre of Dreams.

Philosophies

Just after firing up your career with Manchester United, Chairman Ed Woodward will welcome you to the club and will present you with the club’s philosophies. These will be to play attacking football and develop players using the club’s youth system. This is surprising given the ‘park the bus’ tactics often instilled by current manager Jose Mourinho, but traditionally United are an attack-minded outfit, looking to overpower the opposition.

Expectations

Woodward will then come to you with the expectations for the season. These are adjustable, but you may not want to set the expectation too high in your first campaign. The default is to reach the quarterfinals of the European Champions Cup, qualify for the Champions Cup (finish top four in the league) and reach the final of the FA Cup. The Carabao Cup is not regarded as important.

The only objective you could adjust is for the Champions Cup and target the semi-finals instead of quarterfinals. Although a squad of United’s calibre is capable of reaching the last four, it is a risk in your first season in charge as it could affect your job security.

Budget

Transfer: £42 million

Wage: £3.5 million per week (Current £3.2 million)

Formation

You should go for a 4-2-3-1 system. We have customised our line-up to a ‘4-1-4-1 wide asymmetric’ to allow Paul Pogba to have a greater influence. When Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns from injury you can consider a 4-4-2, but both Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku like to play as a target man, so it may be difficult to get them both into your squad. 4-3-3 is another option, which you can use against stronger opposition and look to hit them on the counter-attack.

Line-up

David de Gea is the obvious choice in goal, with his back four consisting of Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof and Daley Blind

Nemanja Matic is in defensive midfield, with Paul Pogba just in front of him. Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are the three behind the striker, and Romelu Lukaku leads the line.

On the bench you should have Sergio Romero, Phil Jones, Matteo Darmian, Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford.

Luke Shaw and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are both currently out injured, and Shaw should go straight into your line-up when fit, as you need to capitalise on his 156 potential. As for Zlatan, you can play him up top with Lukaku, but it is perhaps best to rotate the pair.

Tactics

Tactically, you should keep a standard mentality and flexible team shape. Be sure to keep an eye on player roles and duties, to see which fits each player best, but be careful not have too many ‘advanced playmakers’ on the pitch as they could get in each other’s way, and be sure to find the right balance between defence and attack. 

If a player is not quite comfortable enough in a role for your liking, make sure they train in that position. This can be done on a player’s profile screen, click on development and then training. On “position/role” select the desired role for that player. 

You won’t be able to play the same way against every team so think about making your fullbacks more defensive against the big teams, and have more discipline in midfield. Be sure to set-up your alternative formations so your side gets used to playing with those systems, and start to form those relationships on the pitch.

Key Players

It may not be the one of the glittering sides of old, which had star players from 1 to 11, but there are some undoubted superstars that wear the United red.

David De Gea – CA 4.5 star (176), PA 4.5 star (184)

Manchester United’s undisputed best player is David de Gea. The 26-year-old Spaniard has been at the top of his game for the past four seasons and is perhaps the best goalkeeper in the world at this moment in time. It is vital you keep hold of him, with whispers of a move to Real Madrid never going away.

De Gea’s 176 current ability is aided by 19 temperament, 19 reflexes and 18 consistency, with his potential of 184 showing he still has more to give. De Gea’s value may be £45.5 million, but you should not consider selling him for anything less than £120 million, and he is one of a few players who are worth £200,000 in wages.  

Paul Pogba – CA 4.5 star (172), PA 4.5 star (185)

Former most expensive player in the world Paul Pogba still has plenty to prove as he begins his second season back at Old Trafford. United fans saw flashes of what he can do in the Europa League last season, but they will want more consistency and more influence from the French central midfielder.

The 24-year-old has 19 ambition, 19 flair and 18 passing in his game, which contribute to his 172 CA. With a potential of 185, he can run your team for the next seven or eight seasons, so be sure to keep hold of him. Pogba’s worth is £66.5 million, but with so many weapons in his arsenal you should not sell him for any price. The former Juventus man matches De Gea’s £200,000 a week wages.

Romelu Lukaku – CA 4 star (160), PA 4 star (168)

With 11 goals in 15 games for United so far, most fans would say that Romelu Lukaku has been worth the £75 million it took to bring him to Manchester. The 24-year-old still has some critics, but he is sure to iron out his small faults over the next few seasons, and become one of the best if not the best number nine in world football.

The big Belgian’s 160 current ability rating has 19 strength, 18 ambition, and 18 professionalism. With a potential of 168, there is only a slight increase coming his way, so he could hit his peak before the age of 26. The former Chelsea man’s value may be £57.1 million, but a club would need to bid £120 million for you to consider a sale. His wages of £180,000 a week are fitting of his abilities.

Young Talent

United are one of few of the big English clubs that bring through young talent. Think back to the Class of ’92, with David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs and Gary & Phil Neville all progressing from the club’s academy. Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford are the ones flying the flag for academy products at the moment, and there is no shortage of young talent currently at the club.

Victor Lindelof – CA 3.5 star (153), PA 4 star (168)

A summer signing still finding his feet at Manchester United, but Victor Lindelof has a massive potential. On FM 2018 he goes straight into the starting line-up, so the 22-year-old is set for a long stint in a red United shirt.

His 153 current ability makes him a rock at the back, with his 168 able to take him into the world class category. The Swedish international is worth £22.5 million, but don’t sell him for less than £70 million. Lindelof’s 17 professionalism, 16 versatility and 16 acceleration earn him his £120,000 a week wages.

Marcus Rashford – CA 3.5 star (145), PA 4.5 star (177)

Another young talent already a regular in the United side is Marcus Rashford. It has been a meteoric rise for the 19-year-old over the past two years, going from youth player to United and England regular. With FM stats of 20 adaptability, 18 acceleration, and 17 flair it’s no wonder why, and the left attacking midfielder or striker has a promising 145 current ability rating on the game.

His potential of 177 is nine higher than teammate Romelu Lukaku’s so expect big things over the next decade from the dangerous Rashford. His value may be £42.5 million, but don’t sell him for any less than £120 million, with his current wages of £20,000 a week set for a large increase.

Angel Gomes – CA 1.5 star (90), PA 3.5 – 4.5 star (141)

A recent U17 World Cup winner, Angel Gomes made his debut for United last season at the age of just 16. The attacking midfielder already has attributes of 20 flair, 18 temperament and 15 acceleration, which contribute to his 90 current ability.

His 141 potential would make him a squad player, but there are no guarantees that the youngster would be a first team regular. His current value of £225,000 means you could sell him for more than £45 million, with his current wages just £105 a week.

Joel Pereira – CA 2 star (118), PA 2 – 3 star (160)

In David de Gea and Sergio Romero, United have two more than capable goalkeepers, but you’re also lucky to have a young, promising ‘keeper who could come into the first team in a few years. The 21-year-old Joel Pereira has 16 adaptability, 15 consistency and 15 aerial ability making up his 118 rating.

A potential of 160 takes him past the CA of Sergio Romero, so there is no doubt Pereira will challenge for the number one jersey in the future. With a value of £13 million, you shouldn’t sell him for less than £30 million, and his current wages are £15,000 a week. 

Arnau Puigmal – CA 1 star (76), PA 3 – 4 star (156)

Central midfielder Arnau Puigmal joined United in the summer from Espanyol, with the 16-year-old tipped for a bright future. The Spaniard shone for Espanyol’s youth team in the Mediterranean International Cup in the summer, scoring in the final against city rivals Barcelona. 

On Football Manager, the nipper starts out with a 76 current ability score, made up by 20 temperament, 14 freekick taking and 14 first touch. His potential of 156 takes him beyond the abilities of Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford, meaning you should not sell him for under £45 million. His current wages are just £105 a week. 

Team Report

StrengthsWeaknesses
StrengthDepth outside of first team
Quality goalkeeper (David de Gea) + Goalkeeper depthAttack depth
Midfield depthLeadership
Youth prospects
Quality defenders (Antonio Valencia and Eric Bailly)
Wage budget
Coaching staff
Decisions
Teamwork
First touch
Passing
Transfer budget
Scouting staff

With £40 million to play with, you’re better off bringing in some young players to boost the ability of the youth teams and prepare yourself. One more striker may be needed, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic likely in his final season at Old Trafford and Marcus Rashford better equipped to play out wide. 

Dynamics

Team Leaders: Michael Carrick (C), Antonio Valencia (vice-captain), David de Gea.

Highly influential players: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Juan Mata, Daley Blind, Paul Pogba, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Romelu Lukaku, Marcos Rojo, Ashley Young.

Your club dynamics can help you fix your leadership issue. With Michael Carrick set to leave next summer, try giving the armband to other players in the squad to improve their leadership. 

With dynamic a new feature this year, be very careful with the words and tone you choose with certain players, as influential players can negatively affect the squad’s morale.

Transfer Targets

After a big summer of spending, you only have £42 million to play with. You can still line up the funds to bring in one more big signing though, but you may need to sell some players to give your bank balance that little boost. You should receive £150 million for the winter transfer window and £175 million next summer, so you won’t have to wait too long for a big money signing.

Left back – Danny Rose (CA 150 – PA 155)

Daley Blind isn’t mobile enough (10 pace) and there is now no certainty whether Luke Shaw will hit his potential. Top of your shopping list should be Danny Rose, and you can secure the Tottenham man for around £60 million.

If you want to get that reduced, try to throw in Chris Smalling as part of the deal, with Spurs lacking depth at centre back. Rose has a 150 CA, with his potential 155. The 26-year-old is currently injured, but he will return a month and a half into the season. England international Rose has wages of £60,000 a week, but expect his demands to be higher.

Alternative options:

  • Filipe Luis – Age 31, Atletico Madrid, Brazil, CA 156, PA 160, Value: £18.2m, Wage: £81k
  • Alex Sandro – Age 26, Juventus, Brazil, CA 168, PA 172, Value: £34.2m, Wage: £89k
  • Jordi Alba – Age 28, Barcelona, Spain, CA 159, PA 165, Value: £41.1m, Wage: £147k
  • Marcelo – Age 29, Real Madrid, Brazil, CA 166, PA 166, Value: £50m, Wage: £142k

Right winger – Gelson Martins (CA 150 – PA 170)

As it stands, Jesse Lingard is the only out-and-out right winger at Man United. You need to bring in a more talented player who can help take The Red Devils to the next level. We like the look of Gelson Martins, who can be yours for an initial £35 million, rising to £60 million.

The 22-year-old has great movement (17 acceleration), and with his current ability of 150 able to rise to 170, he can a great rotation player for your squad. The Sporting Lisbon man’s wages are only £28,000 a week. 

Alternative options:

  • Charly Musonda – Age 20, Chelsea, Belgium, CA 130, PA 162, Value: £11m, Wage: £10k
  • Malcom – Age 20, Bordeaux, Brazil, CA 143, PA 164, Value: £18.3m, Wage: £16.5k
  • Gabriel Barbosa – Age 20, Benfica, Brazil, CA 134, PA 167, Value: £8.1m, Wage: £86k
  • Domenico Berardi – Age 22, Sassuolo, Italy, CA 143, PA 165, Value: £16m, Wage: £63.4k

Players to sell

Manchester United had two internationals in every position last season. That is fantastic depth, but it can be a waste of talent and money. If you sell some of these fringe players, you can get a decent cash return and replace them with more promising young talent.

Chris Smalling

With so many centre back options you can afford to let one go. The versatility of Phil Jones will come in useful, and Marcos Rojo can also play at left back. That leaves Chris Smalling, who current finds himself last in the pecking order at centre back. 

The 27-year-old does not have a long-term future at the club with his 143 current ability and 150 potential, so you should look to sell him for his value price of £22.5 million, freeing up £70,000 a week in your wage budget.

Ashley Young

Once a flying winger, Ashley Young has now been shoe-horned in as a fullback at Old Trafford. To his credit, the 31-year-old has performed well there, but the move has been a stop-gap until a replacement is found. His CA of 135 will no longer improve, so you are best of selling the England international before his value drops. Try to get around £8 million for the player and get rid of his outrageous £120,000 a week wages.

Finances 

How does the saying go? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Unlike many of their rivals in the Premier League, Manchester United have had a wealth of money for some time, produced from their on-pitch performances over the years.

After a £146 million summer spend, the finances are not huge for you, but your budget is set to go straight back up as early as January. Looking at the financial projection, you should have £150 million for the winter transfer window, and then £175 million next summer. If you are not targeting a Premier League triumph this season, it has to happen in 2018/19. 

The only slight concern is the profit/loss projection, which is to head into the red at the end of 2017. This will continue to worsen until May 2018, and it looks set to be improve by the end of 2019. This is presumably United paying off their two bank loans, as you will pay £4.3 million a month for the best part of the next decade.

Are you ready?

Old Trafford is waiting. All you have to do is win. Winning is in the Manchester United DNA, and once your squad gets used to your system and style, you should be able to thwart any opponent. 

United have a deep squad which should allow you to compete in the three major competitions, but you should only play your fringe players in the Carabao Cup. If you start the season well that should open the door for you to target one of the big trophies. If you try to juggle all three and you could be left with nothing at the end of the season.

Manchester United first team squad roles and ratings

PlayerAgePos.RoleDutyRole AbilityCA/
PA
Starting Lineup
David De Gea26GKGoalkeeperDefend4.5 star176/
184
Antonio Valencia31DRFull-BackAuto3 star149/
158
Eric Bailly23DCRCentral DefenderStopper3 star152/
170
Victor Lindelof22DCLBall Playing DefenderCover3.5 star153/
168
Daley Blind27DLWing-BackDefend3 star141/
152
Nemanja Matic28DMCRDefensive MidfielderDefend3 star150/
164
Paul Pogba24MCLDeep Lying PlaymakerSupport4.5 star172/
185
Henrikh Mkhitaryan28AMRWingerAttack3 star160/
165
Juan Mata29AMCAttacking MidfielderAttack4 star162/
174
Anthony Martial21AMLInside ForwardAttack3 star150/
164
Romelu Lukaku24STCTarget ManAttack4 star160/
168
Substitutes
Sergio Romero30GKGoalkeeperDefend2.5 star140/
146
Phil Jones25D (C)Central DefenderStopper2.5 star145/
155
Matteo Darmian27D/WB (RL)Defensive Full-BackDefend2.5 star140/
150
Michael Carrick35DMDeep Lying PlaymakerDefend3 star142/
165
Ander Herrera27DM
M (C)
Box To Box MidfielderSupport3.5 star154/
160
Jesse Lingard24M (RL)
AM (RLC)
WingerSupport2.5 star144/
152
Marcus Rashford19AM (L)

ST (C)

Inside Forward

Poacher

Attack

Attack

3 star

2.5 star

145/
177
Reserves
Chris Smalling27D (C)Central DefenderDefend2.5 star143/
150
Axel Tuanzebe19D (C)Central DefenderDefend2 star123/
158
Ashley Young31D/WB/M (R)Full BackAttack2.5 star135/
155
Marouane Fellaini29M/AM CBall Winning MidfielderSupport2.5 star138/
150
Injured
Marcos Rojo27D (LC)Central DefenderDefend2.5 star144/
150
Luke Shaw21D/WB (L)Full-BackAuto2.5 star140/
156
Zlatan Ibrahimovic35ST (C)Target ManSupport4 star158/
185

Player Ratings subject to change until the official release of Football Manager 2018 on November 10 2017. This article will be updated accordingly.

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Alastair Pusinelli

I am RealSport's Editor-in-Chief having covered almost everything across the board on the platform. Starting with content on football and the Chinese Super League, I have expanded into esports and gaming, via a stint as rugby editor.

With RS now focused on gaming and working alongside Gfinity, I led the site's coverage on the football titles of FIFA, Football Manager and PES. This has enabled me to cover official esports events such as the FIFA eWorld Cup, FUT Champions Cups and the Gfinity FIFA Series.

Elsewhere, I have been published in The Sunday Times and Variety magazine, as well as working in the offices of Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Hampshire CCC.

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