Football Manager - The Fergie Challenge Part I

November 6 1986. A momentous day in the history of Manchester United Football Club and for English football as a whole. Aberdeen boss Alex Ferguson took on the struggling Old Trafford side and reshaped them from sleeping giant to near unstoppable titan.

Languishing second from bottom in the old First Division, Ferguson’s incredible over quarter century reign is an incredible feat and one laden with success – 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 10 Charity Shields, 2 Champions Leagues, 2 Club World Cups, a UEFA Super Cup and a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.

It would be almost impossible to replicate in real life but what about in a game? Well, that’s what I’ve set out to do on Football Manager 2015 in “The Fergie Challenge”.

The premise is simple – holiday to November 6th in game and take charge of the second bottom Premier League side, building them into a global powerhouse. There are a number of objectives and goals within this challenge that make it much more interesting, while also making your career a bit more like Ferguson’s:

  • Win a domestic cup in four seasons – Ferguson won the FA Cup in 1990
  • Win a league title in seven seasons – Ferguson’s first title was 1992/93
  • Win the double in eight seasons – Ferguson’s first was 1993/94
  • Win the treble in thirteen seasons – League, FA Cup and Champions League winners in 1999
  • Don’t spend more than £62 million on players a season – The most Ferguson ever spent in a season
  • Limit of eleven signings a season – Ferguson brought in 11 in 2003/04, eight of whom were first team players
  • Look to the youth academy – Just like SAF did with the class of 92 amongst others
  • Turn long-time players onto coaching – A la Keane, Giggs, Strachan, Berg, Blanc, Bruce etc.

So, I assumed my identity as a 52 cap Scottish international that had recently retired and holidayed on through to November 6th 2014. What awaited me was certainly a strange sight to behold…

Remarkable Players Sold By Lille OSC XI

Spurs 17th? Palace 5th? Gabby Agbonlahor scoring six goals?! And they say video games are unrealistic…

Anyway, I’m pretty pleased with Swansea who, from digging around the forums, seem to be somewhat common for this challenge which is baffling as they have a number of very, very good players. Poor Garry Monk is useless in-game (less so in real life as *plug alert* I pointed out on this very site) but still managed to embarrass Aston Villa in his final game before I took over.

Squad wise, it’s looking OK but there are a few areas that could with some improving and bulking up. We’re a little short of quality and depth at the back with just six recognised defenders in the first team squad.

I’m comfortable with my three centre backs right now but full back is going to be a big problem very quickly. Angel Rangel has a superb average rating but is 32 and on the decline and I really don’t want to play Irish international Kyle Naughton while Neil Taylor is my only left back. Dwight Tiendalli is lurking in the U21s but he makes Naughton look like Cafu so he’ll be gone pretty soon.

I’m not at all comfortable with a strike force that hasn’t scored a whole lot this season either. We’ve scored more than everyone up to eighth bar Burnley but the goals have been spread out across the team. I’d also like a new goalkeeper but there is a huge problem that I really need to address.

Seriously Garry?! £12 million and that’s the best you can do?! What’s even better is that his spending leaves me with no budget at all. I had to plough all my remaining transfer money into the wage budget because he left it £40,000 a week over. And just look at the gifts he’s left me.

He paid nearly £5 million for Charlie Adam. Mark Hughes must have been virtually laughing all the way back to the virtual bank with that one. Bakary Sako and Teofilo Gutierrez are decent name signings that could do a job but have bombed hard so far but my absolute favourite for idiocy is Pierre Webo.

Garry Monk’s infinite virtual wisdom decided that the best idea was to give 32 year old Pierre Webo (a striker who’s only broke double figures three times in his career) a THREE YEAR, £30,000 A WEEK CONTRACT! He’s only made three sub appearances too. Can’t wait to let him rot in the U21s.

Tactically I’ve not been very outrageous or anything. I have an affinity for the 4-2-3-1 on FM as it’s a formation I know will get me results. It’s taken a while to tinker with this edition’s version of it but I finally got the balance sorted. As you can see below, it’s nothing special but a tactic that just works (most of the time).

The line-up you see there also happens to be the one I used in the first game of my (hopefully) long reign at Swansea as Arsenal visited the Liberty Stadium. I was expecting a tough game despite Arsenal struggling in seventh but what I got was something totally weird.

Seemingly, Arsene Wenger has got stuck 20 years ago and decided 4-4-2 is the way to go and that playing Gabriel at left back and Jack Wilshere on the left are good ideas. Ozil as a deep lying striker I can understand but those ones I can’t. We proceeded to play them off the park with Jefferson Montero and Gylfi Sigurdsson running riot. Montero scored a beauty from range for the first and then we just passed round them for Gylfi to sweep home from ten yards. Job done and up to 15th already.

I will join you at the end of the season for the next update. Can the promising start be turned into something more long-term? Will we strengthen the squad? Will anyone buy Dwight Tiendalli? Why is Charlie Adam playing for Swansea? Will Pierre Webo actually do anything? You’ll have to return to find out or follow me on Twitter where I will probably tweet about it at some point.
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