We thought of replicating and trying some tactics used years ago by some great managers at that time in FM20. We never had the database but thanks to @themadscientistFM for creating a 2006/2007 database for FM20. So, we are starting off with Sir Alex Ferguson tactic with Manchester United in the 2006-2008 era.
FM20 Tactic: Alex Ferguson 4-4-2 Formation
Particularly in the era of 2006 to 2008, Alex Ferguson used the 4-4-2 classic in most games. Though, through out his career in Man United, his main tactic was 4-4-2. The build-up back then based on taking long balls to the forwards. Playing out of defence wasn’t common those days. Goalkeepers didn’t have that confidence to play out from the back, and managers never encouraged the strategy.
Both Van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszczak frequently sent long balls to the opposition’s half. Their aim was to find a striker or target player in that half. Then, the team would position to win the second ball. Once the second ball is won, the team would move for counter. This was how Ferguson wanted his team to play. Therefore, in FM20, I used the same strategy.
However, the Red Devils’ passing directness wasn’t actually based on long balls nor route one, rather it was just standard. Though, the team usually moved the ball urgently for counter attack.
Ferguson Man United team attacked in urgency. In transition, they used counter. The team had the speed to achieve that, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs powering the wings. Ferguson always preferred his team to attack from the flanks. This allowed the Scottish manager to take full advantage of his fast wingers. Attacking from the flanks made most of Man United goals come from crosses back then – I got similar goal results in FM20.
Moreover, Ferguson’s team sometimes went direct with long balls to breaking players (mostly the two strikers) making underlapping runs.
Back then, Alex Ferguson employed a low block 4-4-2 setup. They defended in such block. I would say Diego Simeone’s 4-4-2 learned a thing or two from Alex Ferguson’s defending. However, the difference is that Alex Ferguson didn’t use a more urgent pressing intensity or counter-press. Rather, his pressing was just standard and the team regroups when out of possession. In FM20, both the low block strategy and standard pressing intensity were never effective. They caused a lot of errors for my Man United team in the 2006 database.
Therefore, I had to use a more urgent pressing intensity. Our defensive strength improved but something was still lacking. I will discuss that later in the tweak I made.
Alex Ferguson’s Role Selections
Back then, the sweeper-keeper role wasn’t common. So, most of the stoppers then were on the traditional goalkeeper role. The tasks weren’t too much.
Ferdinand, who was a regular starter, played as a ball-playing defender. He had that confidence and intelligence to play with the ball. Plus, he had a good passing range. Moreover, the English defender was always the cover in the defensive line, sweeping up opposition through balls. That’s why I used the cover duty in FM20.
Unlike Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic was the destroyer – a no-nonsense defender. Vidic tackles were lethal and on point.
Apart from Ferdinand and Vidic, Brown and Silvestre played more as normal central defenders.
Alex Ferguson used the traditional fullback role consistently. Both Patrice Evra and Gabriel Heinze played as supporting fullbacks on the left. While Wes Brown and Gary Neville played as fullbacks on the right. Ferguson always encouraged them to venture forward to support the attacking phase.
Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick were the main players in the midfield, especially in the 2006/2007 season. Scholes was the advanced playmaker but sometimes played as a base deep-lying playmaker. On the other hand, Michael Carrick was the defensive playmaker – the DLP-defend in Football Manager Terminology. Carrick stayed deeper when the team advanced to the final third.
However, part of their jobs was to dictate the tempo and distribute the ball to underlapping teammates. Defensively, both midfielders contributed a lot.
The 2007/2008 saw the addition of Anderson (a good substitute for Scholes) and Owen Hargreaves (good sub for Carrick). But in FM20, I bought Hargreaves in winter transfer to create such a picture – I couldn’t bring in Anderson.
The wingers and fullbacks carried most of the attacks under Alex Ferguson. On the left, Ryan offered the extra width needed, with the freedom to roam. Then on the right, the vibrant Cristiano Ronaldo was the inverted winger with the optimum freedom to roam from positions. Ferguson always gave Ronaldo the freedom to change positions anyhow the winger sees fit. He knew how super talented the Portuguese was to change games.
However, the super-sub Park Ji-Sung could play in any of the wings. He also had the lighting speed and agility required.
Upfront, Wayne Rooney was the deep-lying forward. He always dropped to receive passes – and even assist defensively. His aggression helped a lot but he also had that sensational vision that contributed to the team’s forward play. Sometimes, Rooney appeared as the pressing forward (called defensive forward back then) in some games.
On the other hand, Saha was the advanced forward who made runs behind the opposition defence. He was a vibrant player then, with good off-the-ball.
However, in FM20, to create a picture of the 2007/2008 squad, I bought Carlos Tevez in the winter transfers. Ferguson’s best pair back then was Rooney (DLF-S) and Tevez (AF-A). But for me, in FM20, was Tevez (DLF-S) and Alan Smith (AF-A). Alan Smith was my best striker; scored 31 goals in 33 appearances.
The Tweak Made
If you’re a frequent player of football manager 2020, you would notice that playing with a low block (that’s using a lower line of engagement) is a pain. It isn’t effective and often gives a poor result, especially in this new version of FM20 (version 20.4.0). Though it was effective in version 20.2.3, which gave us a stunning experience after creating Diego Simeone 4-4-2 tactic with Atlético Madrid.
Therefore, since the low block, which was what Alex Ferguson used in his time, triggered some issues, I had to move the LoE to much higher and the defensive line to higher. The result this tweak gave me was just exquisite. The screenshots below highlight this change.
This was the only tweak I made. I will include the tactic with the low block and the one with a high block in the download rar file.
In most cases, I used the positive mentality in both home and away games.