Football Manager 2020: Sheffield United Team Guide – Tactics, formations, transfer targets & more

The Blades are back in with a bang but can you replicate their Premier League heroics in FM?

George Howson by George Howson
fm 20 sheffield united team guide

After being controversially relegated from the Premier League back in 2007, Sheffield United are playing top-flight football for the first time in 12 years this season.

Blades fans have had to endure some difficult spells during this time, including six successive seasons in the third tier.

With lifelong United fan and former player Chris Wilder now in charge though, the Blades could be marching into Europe next season.

Two promotions in three seasons and a unique tactical approach has seen United take the Premier League by storm and challenge for a potential Champions League spot.

Can you emulate Wilder’s excellent season so far though? Here’s our ultimate guide to success with SUFC in Football Manager 2020.

Club vision

AC Milan FM20 Club Vision
REALISTIC: AC Milan’s board set you fair targets for your first few seasons

Before the season began, Sheffield United were the favourites of most to be relegated from the Premier League.

The board appear to agree with this assessment, requiring you to “fight bravely against relegation”. This means that you don’t even have to avoid the drop to keep your job.

Conversely, the expectations for the cups are high. The board set the goal of reaching the fifth round of the FA Cup and the fourth round of the League Cup.

Doable, but not easy, especially when you’ll need to rest players for the league.

READ MORE: FM20 Real Madrid Guide

When it comes to your signings, the board only ask that you make use of the club’s youth facilities. This means that you should promote from within and play your youngsters as much as possible.

With regards to your tactics, the only preference is to play a possession-based game and be efficient from set-pieces.

Tactical style & formation

Sheffield United FM20 Tactics
OVERLAPPING CENTRE-BACKS: This formation allows you to deploy Wilder’s unique tactical approach

Wilder has many admirers of the way he sets his team out.

The Blades have three centre-backs, two of which bomb down the wings and overlap the full-backs. This is what makes the Red and White Wizards so potent up front and you can replicate this in FM.

For most opponents, you can opt for the wing play tactic, as this allows for you centre-backs, centre-mids and full-backs to overload the wings as much as possible.

Fluid counter-attack should be used against teams with more quality and away from home. Catenaccio is also recommended by your staff.

READ MORE: FM20 Wolves Team Guide

The 5-3-2 WB formation is the best to use as this is how the Blades have lined up throughout most of Wilder’s time at the club. 4-4-2 and 3-5-2 are also good options, as two striker formations are usually the most effective.

Your starting 11 should be Dean Henderson in goal, with a centre-back trio of Chris Basham, Jack O’Connell and John Egan. You wing-back pairing should be Enda Stevens on the left and George Baldock on the right.

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The midfield trio includes record signing Sander Berge, Oliver Norwood and John Fleck. The optimum striking partnership is Oliver McBurnie and Lys Mousset.

Your seven best subs are Michael Verrips, Panagiotis Restos, John Lundstram, Mo Besic, Luke Freeman, Kieron Freeman and club captain Billy Sharp.

Best players

Let’s not beat around the bush, Sheffield United have average players for the Premier League in FM20. They’re by no means outclassed though, this squad is good enough to survive in the top-flight and make a push for mid-table.

Here’s the top five currently on their books in terms of current ability (CA):

Player Pos Age CA/PA Best Stats
John Fleck DM, M (C) 27 136/138 15 first touch, 15 passing, 15 work rate
Jack O’Connell D (C) 25 135/145 16 bravery, 15 tackling, 15 work rate
John Egan D (C) 26 134/136 18 bravery, 16 determination, 15 heading
Sander Berge DM, M/AM (C) 21 133/165 15 technique, 15 decisions, 15 acceleration
George Baldock D/WB (R) 26 133/135 16 work rate, 16 acceleration, 15 stamina

All of the above players are around the same age and near their potential ability (PA) with the exception of one. Sender Berge has the highest PA of any Blades player and has one of the highest CA’s despite being only 21.

It should also be noted that the top five is without any strikers in it. That’s probably an area you should be focusing on going forward with the club.

Young talent

Sheffield United youth academy is not one to be sniffed at. While not on the level of Southampton and Manchester United, some top talent has hailed from the steel city in recent times.

Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, David Brooks and Phil Jagielka, amongst others have all come through Shirecliff. Here are the best three youngsters (20 or under) in terms of their PA:

Marcus Dewhurst – CA 1.5 star (80), PA 4 star (140-170)

POTENTIAL THREE LIONS STOPPER: Dewhurst could become a goalkeeper for England one day.

Marcus Dewhurst began the season on loan to struggling Guiseley but will begin your FM save at League 2 side Carlisle. The teenage goalkeeper has a long way to go to be challenging Henderson and Verrips for a first team appearance.

READ MORE: FM20: Arsenal team guide

Dewhurst has already made appearances for the England Under-19’s side and could be the Three Lions’ number 1 one day thanks to his PA of up to 170!

Callum Gribbin – CA 2 star (95), PA 3 star (120-150)

Callum Gribbin FM20 attributes

Callum Gribbin isn’t a player many United fans will be familiar with but could be making first team appearances before too long. The Englishman was purchased from Manchester United in the summer and can reach up to 150 CA, better than any of the Blades current players.

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Gribbin isn’t good enough for now though, you’re probably best off loaning him out to a League 1 club before giving him a chance in the Championship the following term.

Rhys Norrington-Davies – CA 2 star (105), PA 4.5 star (110-140)

Norrington-Davies FM20 attributes

Another player that spends their first season on loan in the lower leagues is Rhys Norrington-Davies. With a maximum PA of 140, he’ll struggle to make it into the first team on a regular basis in the future but could provide decent back-up when rotating your squad.

READ MORE: FM20: All the best contract expiry signings

His attributes aren’t bad to begin with though, with solid physicals and mental, although his technicals need some work, but those will improve in time.

Transfer targets

Sheffield United FM20 Financial projections
ON THE UP: Sheffield United’s finances are just like their fortunes at the moment.

Starting transfer budget: £2.7 million

Remaining wage budget: £31,000 a week

Sheffield United comfortably have the lowest wage budget of any top-flight side but the Blades are making a name for themselves by being efficient with their finances.

The Blades actually begin FM20 in the hole, but their bank balance is set to increase to £40m by the end of the 2021-22 season. Wages and turnover are set to remain constant in this period, meaning the transfer budget is set to increase to £70m by Summer 2022.

READ MORE: All the best left midfielders (ML & AML) to sign in FM20

United don’t have many players that stand out in FM20, so picking an area to improve is difficult. In terms of the depth though, left wing-back is the weakest, as Enda Stevens is the only one who can play there naturally.

Greg Cunningham FM20 attributes
GREAT COVER: Greg Cunningham would be a solid addition to your squad.

If you alter your wage and transfer budgets, you’ll have a limit of around £50k per week for a loan. For that price, there’s not many better available than Cardiff’s Greg Cunningham.

With an £8m valuation, you won’t be able to buy him in your first season but he’s a solid option for when Stevens is unavailable.

Alternative options

If Cunningham doesn’t sound like the player you’re looking for, consider these other players instead:

Name Age Club Country CA/PA Value Wage
Matt Ritchie 29 Newcastle Scotland 130/141 £14.2m £45k
Demetri Mitchell 22 Man Utd England 116/135 £3.6m £3.5k
Elias Cobbaut 21 Anderlecht Belgium 117/135 £1.5m £8.5k

Future transfers

Going forward, United have plenty of areas you’ll need to address. The striker force is ageing, so aiming for players like Josh King, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Aleksandra Mitrovic to replace likes of Sharp and McGoldrick.

You’ll also need to fill the hole left by both Retsos and Jagielka. Mason Holgate, Jan Bednarek or even Retsos on a permanent deal would be good options here and are all affordable.

READ MORE: The best wonderkid midfielders in Football Manager 2020

The other loaned players can go back except for Henderson, although he’ll be very difficult to get and will probably cost most of your £50m budget for Summer 2020.

With the momentum the club has, you won’t need to make wholesale changes. Investing in young players for the future is the way to go.


Sheffield United FM20 Contracts
BIG CHANGES ON THE HORIZON: The Blades’ contract situation means that wholesale changes could be on the way.

Sheffield United have a lot of players’ deals expiring in the first two seasons of your tenure but not many are for players you’ll vitally need.

Jagielka probably won’t be good enough to play many games from 2020-21 onwards but his experience is vital, so sign him to a coaching deal if he’s willing.

Kieran Freeman and John Lundstram should have their contracts extended beyond 2020 as long as they’re performing well.

READ MORE: Best young goalkeepers (GK) to sign in Football Manager 2020

Both Oliver Norwood’s and John Fleck’s deal expires at the end of the 2020-21 season, those are a pair you need to tie down to a longer contract or will leave on a free in January.

Basham, McGolrick and Sharp all also are set to leave in Summer 2021 and while they’re important now, they’ll all be in or approaching their mid-30’s by this point. You can keep them for longer but it could be time to say goodbye at this point.

Back to the big time

Sheffield United were the firm favourites to be relegated before the season started but the Blades have defied all expectations.

It’ll be very difficult to eclipse Wilder’s achievements in your save but surviving in the Premier League will be the first step to doing so.

READ MORE: All the best right wingers (MR & AMR) in Football Manager 2020

Even with survival in the top flight, you won’t have incredible financial backing behind you, unless of course, the Blades get a new board.

The ultimate goal will be to one day qualify for the Europa League, anything more than that will take a very long time to achieve. If you buy smart and young though, there’s no reason why you can’t one day climb even higher though.

Player Age Pos Role Duty Role Ability CA/PA
Starting Lineup            
Dean Henderson 22 GK G Defend 3.5 star 135/155
Chris Basham 30 D (C), DM, M (C) NCB Stopper 3.5 stat 132/132
John Egan 26 D (C) NCB Defend 3.5 star 134/136
Jack O’Connell 25 D (C) BPD Defend 3.5 star 135/145
Enda Stevens 28 D/WB (L) FB Defend 3.5 star 133/134
George Baldock 26 D/WB (R) WB Defend 3.5 star 133/135
Oliver Norwood 28 DM, M (C) DLP Support 3.5 star 133/134
Sander Berge 21 DM, M/AM (C) DLP Support 3.5 star 133/165
John Fleck 27 DM, M (C) DLP Support 3.5 star 136/138
Oliver McBurnie 23 AM (RC), ST TM Support 3 star 130/136
Lys Mousset 23 AM (R), ST AF Attack 3 star 132/154
Substitutes & Reserves            
Michael Verrips 22 GK SK Defend 2.5 star 120/140
Simon Moore 29 GK G Defend 2.5 star 118/125
Panagiotis Retsos 20 D (RLC) BPD Defend 3 star 128/154
John Lundstram 25 DM, M (C) BBM Support 3.5 star 132/132
Mo Besic 26 DM, M (C) BWM Defend 3 star 128/142
Luke Freeman 27 M/AM (RLC) WB Support 3 star 130/135
Kieron Freeman 27 D (RL), WB (R) WB Support 3 star 127/128
David McGoldrick 31 AM (C), ST DLF Support 3 star 131/132
Phil Jagielka 36 D (C) CD Defend 3 star 129/157
Leon Clarke 34 ST TM Support 2.5 star 117/123
Billy Sharp 33 ST P Attack 3 star 130/132
Jack Rodwell 28 D (C), DM, M (C) DLP Defend 2 star 108/140
Jack Robinson 25 D (LC) FB Defend 3 star 122/140
Ben Osborn 24 M (LC), AM (L) DW Support 3 star 122/145
Ricky Holmes 32 M (L), AM (RLC) IW Support 2 star 107/120
Richairo Zivkovic 22 AM (L), ST AF Attack 2.5 star 113/130

George Howson