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[FM 07] Back to 2006 | UPDATE: 29/30 Club Football - Serie A's QPR moment, FA Cup's QPR final, Dortmund makes history...

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November 2025 - Sheffield Wednesday and Europa League

Europa League - Group Stage

v Dynamo Dresden (A) @ Rudolf-Harbig-Stadion - 20/11/25

Dresden finally rose back to the Bundesliga in 2023, after bouncing around the 3 divisions below for nearly 3 decades, in Mario Basler's first season.

It didn't end there, as Basler took them to 6th in their first season and thus the Europa League!

And it didn't end there, as Basler then led the team to the Europa League group stage, finished 2nd in the group, and beat Marseille 3-0 at home before a 3-2 aggregate win in the 1st knockout round, before succumbing to Napoli in the round of 16. Not only that, but the likes of Dortmund and Wolfsburg fell as they reached the DFB-Pokal semi-final...

...and then Basler was sacked.

They're now managed by Sebastian Plate, who led the team to their first major trophy by winning that semi and then the final, as well as only losing 1 game in 7 and keeping 4 clean sheets in 5 to keep the team up for another season.

This season, they're currently bottom of the Bundesliga with 1 win in 12 and were knocked out of the cup by an amateur side. However, in Europe they got an impressive 0-0 draw at home to PSV and beat Visé away 2-0.

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Team News

More changes as I won't play my strongest line-up, saving some for the away game in under 3 days.

Team: Majava; Preston, Hamann, Simak, Farley; Topic, Darlington (c), Guilbert; Peres; Boussoufa, Lara

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(18th, Bundesliga) Dresden 1 - 1 Man Utd (5th, PL)
0-1: Boussoufa (48)
MU Red Card: Hamann (49)
1-1: (59)

- They scored due to tactical confusion. I changed to 3/5 at the back after the red card, but 2 defenders thought they should still be man-marking, leaving a man free.

- Sub Sibiya had a run at goal in the final second, but shot over.

===============================================================

Premier League

Sheffield Wednesday (A) @ Hillsborough - 23/11/25

Wednesday are an established midtable side these days, thanks mainly to Mike Newell, who also led the team to their first trophy in 32 years with the 2023 FA Cup and followed by a Europa League semi-final, where they were beaten by Man Utd.

So of course Newell was sacked in November last season.

Under new manager Mladen Krstajic this season, they're 17th, but have kept 4 clean sheets in the last 7 games.

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Team News

Kanu returns from a 2-month injury to make only his 2nd start since his £29.5m move and partners Sibiya.

Team: Butler; Rafiei, Preston, Souza, Hamann; Pressley, King (c), McIntosh; Anderson; Sibiya, Kanu

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(17th) Sheff Wed 0 - 2 Man Utd (6th)
0-2: Anderson (45+1), Sibiya (61)

- Kanu didn't last half an hour and was substituted with a knock.

- In the first half alone, Butler had 30 goal kicks, despite only facing a few shots.

- King made both assists.

- Sibiya's goal was another incredible angled shot. 1-on-1 with the keeper, he seemingly dribbled too wide. But, with no other options, he curled an inswinging ball millimetres into the inside of the far post. Insane!

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Europa League

v Nice (H) - 27/11/25

Nice are a yo-yo club who have spent 2 years in Ligue 2 then 2 years in Ligue 1, back and forth, for 8 years in a row. They finished 6th and won the Coupe de France last season.

Team News

Our strongest available line-up plays, though Adams gets a chance up front.

Team: Majava; Souza, Preston, Simak, Farley; Pressley, Ryan, McIntosh; Tsotetsi; Adams (c), Sibiya

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(4th, PL) Man Utd 6 - 0 Nice (13th, Ligue 1)
2-0: Adams (2), Tsotetsi (8)
N Red Card: (58)
6-0: Sibiya (60), Adams (72, 84), Tsotetsi (74)

- A legendary night of stylish football and a big win, but was actually the 2nd time in 3 years that Man Utd have beaten a French side in the Europa League at Old Trafford 6-0.

- Adams took precisely 1 minute to show why he should start, and had 4 clear cut chances within 8 minutes, scoring that first one as well as having one saved only for Tsotetsi to score from the rebound.

- Nice lost their heads after going down 2-0 early, and one of their players did a Zidane headbutt to get sent off.

- Sibiya scored yet another sensational shot from a narrow angle, after dribbling through 2 players like Maradona. The guy doesn't aim for the corner of the back of the net, he always aims for the inside of the far post!

- Adams' 2nd goal was a diving header from a deflected cross/shot.

- Tsotetsi's 2nd goal was from outside the area.

- Adams not only finished with a hat-trick, but 2 assists.

With a round of games still to go, all 3 qualified teams in the 5-team group have been decided, with us currently top.

===============================================================


- To top off the good news, my former club Busan confirmed a league and Champions League double, with a win over Incheon in the semis and brushing aside Seoul in the 2-legged final exactly as last season.

- But Kanu suffers another injury in training and now he's out for up to 2 months. If this keeps up, he'll be a massive waste of money.

- In the 2nd round of the FA Cup, Conference South side Sutton United beat League Two Morecambe 2-1. But result of the round goes to Conference relegation battlers Torquay United, who got a 1-1 draw away to League One title-chasers Woking with a goal in the 1st minute, this despite going down to 10 men in the 27th minute and 9 men in the 55th.

- Our World Cup-winning Scottish defender John Preston won Player of the Month for November after 3 games, 3 clean sheets and three 8-ratings.

- I have the opportunity to bring back René Meulensteen, one of the best assistants and all-round coaches in the game. Everywhere is his specialty. He left the coaching staff in 2016 to become assistant at Lens, Lyon and now PSV. He was only willing to come back as an assistant though. Brian McClair, my current assistant, didn't have a problem with officially becoming a coach to make way. Although René takes up some of the assistant workload, it's really just a title with so many big experienced names on the staff, and I'll still call on McClair for advice. With the reserves doing badly (3 wins and 6 losses), I replace Dempsey as manager with Meulensteen.

I'm sure everyone will get along...

 

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December 2025 - West Ham + Brom + final Europa League table

Premier League

v West Ham United (H) - RIVALS - 5/12/25

The Hammers are a firmly established midtable Premier League side, only suffering 6 relegations since being promoted in 1958 and always bouncing quickly back up.

Since the summer of 2024, they've been managed by the globetrotting Gareth Southgate, who's previously managing in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands as well as England. His first season actually saw West Ham narrowly avoid relegation after failing to win or keep a clean sheet in their last 9 games.

This season they're doing better, with a near equal amount of wins, draws and losses and a goal difference of 0.

Man Utd haven't lost at home to West Ham in 24 years, winning 21 of the 23 matches at Old Trafford, though the last 5 matches (2 at home) have ended with just a 1-0 scoreline.

Team News

With Pressley injured early in the Nice game for 2 months, Nicky Pryce (who I tried to sell in the summer) is promoted back up from the reserves to sit on the bench.

Team: Butler; Rafiei, Souza, Castillo, Farley; Topic, Ryan (c), McIntosh; Tsotetsi; Sibiya, Santos

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(5th) Man Utd 1 - 0 West Ham (8th)
MU Red Card: Ryan (33)
1-0: Own Goal/Santos (39)

- Ryan was the only player to be sent off for a supposed last-man foul. Another of my players and one of theirs got a yellow for the same situation. I won't bother appealing since we can survive without him in the next game.

- Santos hit a cross or shot that deflected at a right angle off a defender for the goal. Officially it's Santos' goal, but clearly an own goal.

- My team displayed top class game management at the end. Not just time-wasting and running to the corner, but actually getting a couple of corners and throw-ins.

===============================================================


v West Bromwich Albion (H) - 6/12/25

After promotion to the Premier League in 2002, West Brom became a yo-yo club until their last promotion in 2013, having hired magician Mike Newell in February of that year. Newell took them to 6th in their second season in the top tier, reaching the FA Cup final and the Europa League quarter-finals the next year, and the Europa semis the year after that. Newell was thanklessly sacked in 2018.

Now an established bottom-half side and managed by former Turkish international Oguz Cetin, they beat Man Utd to win the League Cup in 2024, their first cup in 56 years. They almost won 2 in a row, but lost on penalties to Arsenal in the 2025 final.

As well as the 2024 League Cup final, West Brom actually won the last meeting at Old Trafford 1-0.

Team news

Santos 'scored' against West Ham, but it was a fluke. So, in the quest to find a partner for Sibiya (until Kanu returns), Adams starts and Santos doesn't even make the bench.

Team: Butler; Souza, Preston, Castillo, Hamann; Topic, King (c), McIntosh; Tsotetsi; Sibiya, Adams

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(2nd) Man Utd 4 - 0 WBA (11th)
4-0: Tsotetsi (35), Adams (48), Sibiya (55, 59)

- Sibiya almost scored a hat trick in 5 minutes but, after a 3rd gift, straight from kick-off, his shot was saved. Is that the 3rd time in just half a season he was a penalty/point blank save from a hat-trick?

- Another board-and-fan-pleasing big victory, with style.

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Europa League - Group Stage, 5/5

The 3 qualified teams in the 5-team group has already been decided, but not their placement. The team that finishes top will play a 3rd-placed team in the knockouts, while 2nd place faces a Champions League dropout.

v PSV (A) @ Philips Stadion - 11/12/25

The glory days are behind PSV. They won a surprise Champions League in 2009 under Ronald Koeman but last won the league in 2021. The big 3 of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord is long gone and PSV have only finished in the top 3 once since then.

This is the first time since 2019 that they haven't qualified for the Champions League (via Eredivisie's convoluted European playoff system) and started off in the Europa League. In this group, they've only managed two 0-0 draws, away to the unintimidating Dresden and Visé, but beat Nice 3-0 at home. In fact they've scored 3 goals in 4 of their last 6 home games.

Team News

Normally backup keeper Majava would play, as he did against Dresden and Nice, but I'm starting 21-year-old regular Butler again to give him some more European experience.

The theme of youth continues, as I start an U18 striker who scored in 10 consecutive U18 matches (17 goals) in the past 2 months. 2 youth attackers and a youth defender are on the bench, as I decide to stick with 2 senior centre-backs.

Team: Butler; Souza, Simak, Castillo, Farley; Topic, Darlington (c), Guilbert; Peres; Porter, Boussoufa

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(10th, Eredivisie) PSV 2 - 0 Man Utd (4th, PL)
2-0: (7), (19)

- Both goals came from deflected crosses, which are impossible to defend against.

- We had chances, but the ball just wouldn't squeeze in.

- All the Under-18 players did ok without making a big impact.

- Topic was injured, so now the only senior right-winger for the next month is the man I tried to sell: 3rd-choice Pryce.


Final Group G Table

1 - PSV - 8
2 - Man Utd - 7
3 - Dresden - 6

----------------------
4 - Visé - 2 (-3 GD)
5 - Nice - 2 (-9 GD)

We draw another Dutch side, NAC Breda, in the 1st knockout round, while the 2nd knockout round will set up a tie with either Luzern of Switzerland or Barcelona.

===============================================================


My former club Busan played Boca Juniors in the semis of the Club World Cup and actually dominated, but switched off and lost 1-0 to again fail to reach the final. At least in the 3rd-place playoff, they walloped 10-man African champions Wydad AC by the same scoreline they beat Auckland City in the earlier round: 3-0.
 

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December 2025 - The Halfway Point - Boro, Newcastle, Spurs, Coventry

Premier League

v Middlesbrough (A) @ Riverside Stadium - 14/12/25

After yo-yoing in the 90s, Middlesbrough have only been relegated from the Premier League twice since promotion in 1998, returning as champions the next season on both occasions.

The midtable side are managed by former United and Boro player Paul Ince. In his 1st season (2023/24), they reached their highest league position in over a decade, finishing 7th. Last season, he took them to the Europa League semis and their first FA Cup final in 28 years.

This season hasn't gone so well in the league. Although they've only conceded 13 goals in 15 league games, they've only scored 9. Though, like United, they finished 2nd in their Europa League group and are still in the League Cup. The last meeting ended with a 3-0 win to Middlesbrough at the Riverside, so Boro fans are hoping to see their first home win in 5 games and 2 months.

Team News

Pryce gets his first league start. The right-winger's destiny-deciding month begins.

Butler; Souza, Simak, Castillo, Farley; Pryce, Ryan, Anderson; Tsotetsi; Sibiya, Adams (c)

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(17th) Middlesbrough 1 - 0 Man Utd (5th)
1-0: (35)

- An awful display that makes a mockery of early calls that we're title challengers.

- But a two-footed lunge from a Boro player on 11 minutes only got a yellow rather than a red card.

- Dominici, the central midfielder I sold in the summer, got the assist.

- Castillo committed 7 fouls

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League Cup - Quarter-Finals

v Newcastle United (H) - 17/12/25

I'll properly recap what Newcastle have been up to when we have a competitive match, though if you're a regular you'll know they're 2-time Champions League winners now.

For now, it's important to note that they have got back to form under new manager and former Real Madrid boss Marcelino, after an opening day loss away to Sheffield United.

The teams met 2 years ago in the League Cup semis. Newcastle won 2-1 at home but, at Old Trafford, Man Utd turned it around with a 4-1 win.

Team News

#3 keeper Dupraz gets a start, while the defence includes 2 Under-18 players. Pryce continues on the right wing, with Peres in attacking midfield, and both players on the verge of being ousted in the January transfer window.

Dupraz; Lejeune, Rafiei, Ansell, Hamann; Pryce, Darlington (c), Guilbert; Peres; Santos, Boussoufa

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(6th, PL) Man Utd 1 - 0 Newcastle United (3rd, PL)
NU Red Card: (50)
1-0: Peres (pen 51)

- Newcastle played their best XI and suffer the embarrassment of losing to a second-XI with two 16-year-olds in defence.

- It was like an away game as we were lucky to keep a clean sheet before Peres won a penalty for a shirt pull.

- Santos was busy and had a few chances, but couldn't get the goal he clearly desperately wanted against his former club.

- The 3 Under-18s that played didn't make any real errors, but were definitely weak links.

- Dupraz (GK) won Man of the Match.

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Premier League

v Tottenham Hotspur (A) @ White Hart Lane - 20/12/25

We beat Tottenham 5-0 in my first competitive game, with a Sibiya hat trick.

Since then, the yo-yo club have been somewhat overachieving, a few places above their predicted 17th place. Like us, they reached the League Cup semis a few days ago, but had to go all the way to extra time and penalties before beating Liverpool.

Team: Butler; Souza, Castillo, Simak, McIntosh; Pryce, Ryan, Anderson; Tsotetsi; Sibiya, Adams (c)

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(13th) Tottenham 2 - 0 Man Utd (6th)
1-0: (7)
MU Second Yellow: Castillo (45+3)
2-0: (54)
TH Disallowed Goal: (56)

- When looking good, we quickly conceded thanks to poor marking by both centre-backs.

- One centre-back is subbed off with a knock, 10 minutes before the other one gets sent off.

- Despite going a man down, we dominated for periods and ultimately had 10 shots on goal, all saved by their MOTM 10/10 keeper.

- As well as a disallowed goal, Spurs had another shot in the back of the net after a whistle blew. It could've been 4-0.

- Pryce got his 3rd yellow card in 6 games.

- Despite a couple of good saves, the goals conceded were very soft, and our shots were relatively easy to stop. My team talk only involves the keeper and strikers, and my disappointment in them.

Castillo comes out after the match and says he's being victimised by referees due to his reputation. Last season he got 8 yellows and 3 reds, and nearly always gets sent off at least once a season. The bookings were harsh, but it was still an awful performance and he's warned to be more careful. He shouldn't have given away the fouls anyway.

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v Coventry City (A) @ City of Coventry Stadium - 23/12/25

Coventry have become a very steady midtable side since promotion 14 seasons ago. In 19 seasons, they've become cup specialists, reaching 10 semi-finals (including 3 finals) and winning the FA Cup in 2016.

Their manager is Jaime Ordiales, a former Mexico international who played in France 98 at 35 years old. He finally got a job outside Mexico after 12 years at Leon, winning the CONCACAF Champions League in his final year, joining Feyenoord and Hertha Berlin before Coventry in 2023.

Coventry finished 2nd in their Europa League group, and last season they won this tie 2-0.

Team News

This will be a tough game, and now I'm going to concentrate more on defence and not conceding in away games.

Butler got stressed at half time against Spurs, and his form means he's dropped. With both youngsters having dodgy moments, it's time for the mega experienced keeper Majava to start.

Ryan in central midfield is replaced with the more defensive/all-round King.

A couple more changes are made due to the hectic Christmas schedule.

Majava; Souza, Rafiei, Simak, McIntosh; Pryce, King (c), Anderson; Guilbert; Sibiya, Santos

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(9th) Coventry 1 - 3 Man Utd (6th)
0-2: Guilbert (13), Santos (32)
1-2: (41)
1-3: Santos (45+3)
CC Disallowed Goal: (84)
CC Injury, Down To 10 Men: (88)

- Guilbert scored with an awesome free kick from the corner of the area into the far post. Another free kick near the end hit the woodwork.

- There was mass confusion with their disallowed goal, given for offside to a player who was outside the area and intercepting a clearance. It's presumed the offside was against another player when the initial free kick was taken.

- Majava was confident and reliable, even when taking risks.

- Pryce was busy with interceptions and an assist.

- It was a win that pleased everyone, including the board.

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Christmas Premier League Table

(20 games played unless otherwise stated)

1 - Man City - 43
2 - Arsenal - 40 (19 games)
3 - Newcastle - 38 (19)
4 - Chelsea - 35 (19)
-----------------------------------------
5 - Man Utd - 34 (17)
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6 - Liverpool - 34
7 - Leicester - 29
8 - West Ham - 28
9 - Coventry - 26
10 - Preston - 25
11 - West Brom - 25
12 - Tottenham - 24
13 - Sheffield Utd - 22
14 - Norwich - 22
15 - Sheffield Wed - 21 (19)
16 - Middlesbrough - 19 (17)
17 - Charlton - 19
-----------------------------------------
18 - Portsmouth - 15 (19)
19 - Blackburn - 14
20 - Ipswich - 12 (19)

A shock lead for Man City, who have only conceded 8 goals in 20 games.

Arsenal have scored at least 7 goals more than everyone else, with 36 goals in 19 games.

It looks like the top 5 are the serious title challengers.

Of the newly promoted teams, Blackburn and Ipswich are the bottom 2 sides, with Charlton also fighting relegation.

Sibiya was leading the goalscoring charts with 11 goals in 16 league games, but he's been overtaken by Man City's Germany striker Tino Schupp with 12 in 19.
 

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December 2025 to January 2026 - Struggles against Chelsea, behemoths Newcastle and... Port Vale?!

Premier League

v Chelsea (H) - 26/12/25

Valter Bonacina's side are performing fine since we first met this season, currently 4th as well as getting 5 wins and 1 draw in the Champions League group stage.

They've kept 4 clean sheets in a row in the league, though all at home, and just beat Arsenal 3-0. However they haven't won in 4 away league games either.

Earlier this season we lost 1-0 while barely threatening, though we had a penalty appeal turned down and they had a goal disallowed. This was before the deadline day signings of Kanu, Santos and Anderson - the latter 2 are playing today.

Team News

Since we're at home, Ryan is back in central midfield as a more attacking option.

4-3-1-2: Majava; Souza, Rafiei, Simak, McIntosh; Pryce, Ryan (c), Anderson; Tsotetsi; Santos, Sibiya

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(5th) Man Utd 0 - 0 Chelsea (4th)

- Chelsea sat back and got the point they came for.

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v Newcastle United (A) @ St James' Park - 30/12/25

The best team in England. Thanks to Sir Steve McClaren, the sleeping giants woke up, winning 6 league titles, 2 Champions Leagues, 2 FA Cups and 2 Club World Cups in the last 9 seasons. McClaren retired in 2024 and was replaced for a season by the retiring Sergio Bueno. Rather than stutter, they stormed to the title 18 points ahead of everyone else.

Afterwards was more of a shambles. They effectively missed out on a transfer window while trying to find a replacement, and caretaker boss Nigel Pearson had a bad start. Eventually though, fans were delighted as they announced that they hired former Real Madrid boss Marcelino García Toral in September. They only lost 2 of their 16 league games since, but have just now suffered their 3rd loss, 1-0 in Preston, which also ended a run of scoring in 11 games in a row.

Newcastle also suffered an embarrassing loss at Old Trafford 2 weeks ago, as our reserves and youths beat their full-strength side 1-0 in the League Cup. It required a penalty, but Newcastle failed to get anything against a defence consisting of two 16-year-olds and a 3rd-choice 24-year-old keeper. But last season's meeting at St James' Park ended 2-0 to the home side.

4-4-2 Diamond: Majava; Souza, Rafiei, Simak, McIntosh; Pryce, King (c), Anderson; Tsotetsi; Santos, Sibiya
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(3rd) Newcastle Utd 1 - 0 Man Utd (5th)
NU Disallowed Goal: (39)
1-0: (51)

- Newcastle were destroying us until I moved the wingers into the centre for an advanced 4-1-3-2, then we were playing good football.

- Santos hit all 4 of his shots agonisingly wide against his former club.

- England striker Lawrence scored with 1 of only 2 of his shots on target, the only shots on target Newcastle had.

Newcastle are simply too strong, physically and technically. Plus our big money striker Kanu is injured, as is our Scottish World Cup (and Golden Ball)-winning defender Preston, and we only have 1 fit senior right-winger. (Whom I tried to sell in the summer!)

With this and the coming winter transfer window in mind, I'm left with 2 options:

1) I keep things as they are, hope to sell one or two of the players I'm trying to sell to free up the budget and then maybe get a player or 2.

2) Another major overhaul, selling good and popular players but ones that haven't got games because others are playing there, thus freeing up the budget and making me able to bring in free transfers in the summer.

I go with option 2. Unfortunately, (spoilers) while some players were watched, their wages put off most teams and no one made a move for any of them, so we sold no one of note in the January window.

================================================

Sibiya wins Young African Player of the Year and is runner-up for African Player of the Year.

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FA Cup - 3rd Round

v Port Vale (A) @ Vale Park - 3/1/26

Port Vale were relegated from the football league in 2009. They then hired former Cambridge United player Michael Kyd that year, who retired due to injury at just 23 years old. After 13-and-a-bit seasons, they were finally promoted and are still in League Two under Kyd.

Team News

It's all backups, youth and players who need a gee-up. On the wings are two Under-18 players: Carter has 14 goals in 16(5) youth and reserve games, Drysdale has 11 assists in 18(7). The formation to get them all playing in their natural positions is a 3-4-1-2.

3-4-1-2: Dupraz; Castillo, Hamann, Farley; Drysdale, Darlington, Guilbert, Carter; Peres; Adams (c), Boussoufa

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(8th, L2) Port Vale 1 - 1 Man Utd (5th, PL)
0-1: Darlington (61)
1-1: (86)

- Jesus Christ, what is wrong with this team away from home? Controlled the first half, took the lead, then threw it away.

- Only 6 of our 16 shots were on target. We had to score from a corner.

- The only player at fault for their goal was our goalkeeper Dupraz, who was beaten at the near post from an angle.

- So, excluding the youngsters, two good (8/10) players and the subs, my team talk is not nice.

It isn't the upset of the day, though, as League 2 Bournemouth travelled to Premier League Sheffield United and got a replay with a 0-0 draw. The 3 remaining non-league clubs were all eliminated, leaving only football league clubs in the competition.

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Jan 2026 - Do Port Vale Make History at Old Trafford?

League Cup - Semi-Final, 1st Leg

v Middlesbrough (A) @ Riverside Stadium - 7/1/26

The league version of this fixture ended with a 1-0 win to Boro in an awful performance.

Team News

Boro are playing a second-string today.

This game is also about answering the question of who can play right-wing, with all senior right-wingers still injured. Central midfielder Ryan plays there today.

Also, young defender Ansell fills in as a defensive midfielder, because I won't risk playing first-teamer King in a League Cup game.

4-4-2 Diamond: Butler; Souza, Castillo, Hamann, Farley; Ryan, Ansell, Carter; Guilbert; Adams (c), Boussoufa

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(14th, PL) Middlesbrough 1 - 0 Man Utd (5th, PL)
1-0: (pen 3)

- A round of applause to loanee Guilbert, who immediately concedes a penalty for holding. It's yet another mistake, with another pointless 6/10 performance, and it'll be his final act. His loan is terminated and he returns to Bayern.

- However that doesn't excuse our awful away form, with 0 of our 5 shots being on target.

The result isn't a total disaster as the 2nd leg is at Old Trafford, which I've turned into a fortress.

=======================================


Premier League

v Leicester City (H) - 11/1/26

Leicester scraped a 1-0 win over us earlier this season.

Team News

Leicester's superior physical strength on the wings (and our lack of right-winger) would normally mean a change from 4-4-2 to 5-3-2, but we're at home so Leicester will probably sit back, meaning 3 central defenders would be a waste. So I'm trying a 4-3-1-2 with 3 central midfielders.

Narrow 4-3-1-2: Majava; Souza, Rafiei, Castillo, Hamann (c); Tsotetsi, Ryan, Anderson; Peres; Sibiya, Santos

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

(6th) Man Utd 2 - 0 Leicester (10th)
1-0: Santos (41)
LC Red Card: (42)
2-0: Sibiya (90)

- We completely dominated and it was only a matter of time before we finally scored.

- Tstotetsi wound them up. He got an early yellow, which meant I kept him forward, which actually gave us more control. He got their man sent off straight from kick-off.

- Ryan got both assists.

- Santos scored, so naturally got injured. His replacement, Boussoufa, also then got injured.

- Another win that the board are pleased with.

=======================================


FA Cup - 3rd Round Replay

v Port Vale (H) - 14/1/26

Port Vale snatched a late equaliser and upset 11 days ago, but should have no chance at Old Trafford...

Team News

Injuries mean there isn't much choice in backup so it's still a very experienced team and a few first-team players selected.

I choose the #2 keeper rather than the #3. I won't push my luck that much.

Only one player out of position - retiring left-wing veteran Malinov is in the middle.

4-3-1-2: Butler; Lejeune, Simak, Ansell, Farley; Pryce, King (c), McIntosh; Malinov; Lara, John

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(4th, PL) Man Utd 2 - 1 AET Port Vale (8th, L2)
1-0: Pryce (31)
MU Goal Disallowed: Lara (59)
1-1: (64)
PV Second Yellow: (93)
2-1: Tsotetsi (118)

- The 52,127 in the stadium applaud the League 2 side off after nearly taking us to penalties with 10 men.

- In fact they almost scored the most famous FA Cup goal in history, but for a point-blank save by Butler in the final seconds keeping it 1-1.

- We dominated as expected, but their goalkeeper was on form.

- Lara only hit 3 of his 7 shots on target, but made the assist for substitute Tsotetsi's winner.

- Once again, a player AND his substitute replacement came off injured, which didn't help.

- 34-year-old left-back Farley made exactly 100 passes, with midfielder King making 99.

=======================================
Q: "Your analysis of that performance and result?"
A: "...This is why they're on the transfer list."

=======================================

League 2 Bournemouth again matched Port Vale by taking Premier League Sheffield United to penalties, but there was no upset at Dean Court.

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January 2026 - League Cup semi, Lincoln City and Playing Youth

Premier League

v Sheffield United (H) - 17/1/26

We easily beat them at Bramall Lane this season, and they've been dropping down the table since, including a recent run of 0 goals in 8 games. They struggled like us against League 2 opposition in the FA Cup, only beating Bournemouth on penalties in an FA Cup Replay.

Team News

5 injuries means there are no fit out-and-out strikers left to spare. The only one on the bench is big-money signing Kanu, who is finally returning from his latest injury. He may play only his 6th game today.

Narrow 4-3-1-2: Majava; Souza, Rafiei, Hamann (c), Farley; Anderson, Ryan, McIntosh; Tsotetsi; Sibiya, Peres

--------------------------------------------------------------

(5th) Man Utd 2 - 0 Sheff Utd (16th)
2-0: McIntosh (41), Sibiya (64)

- Tsotetsi got both assists.


===================================

In-form South African duo Tsotetsi and Sibiya and Moroccan striker Boussoufa are called up for the African Cup of Nations and will be unavailable for 2 - 4 weeks. Kanu also has a chance to gain fitness and stay fit with Nigeria.
This means our top 3 strikers are unavailable, and the only fit out-and-out strikers are those I'm trying to sell.

===================================


League Cup - Semi Final, 2nd Leg

v Middlesbrough (H) - 21/1/26

We've met Boro twice, but this is the first meeting at Old Trafford. We lost both times 1-0, including the 1st leg, but this was more because of our awful away performances than their threat.

They're unbeaten in 6 games. Paul Ince's side is enjoying a good run.

The away goals rule doesn't come into effect until after extra time.

Team News

Some managers cop-out by the semi-final stage by picking a strong team, but I'm sticking with youth and reserves. No one will care if we've won this cup by the end of the season. Besides, the same policy against a full-strength Newcastle in an earlier round meant our 1-0 win wasn't a decent-but-meaningless result, but instead was an utter embarrassment for our rivals.

#2 keeper Butler goes in goal rather than #3 Dupraz. Ultimately, Butler is the slightly better keeper, with more potential, and 3 years younger, so he should be getting the games.

An 18, 17 and 16-year-old are in defence, completed by world class veteran Preston (who has to regain fitness).

Topic and Darlington are also returning from injury in midfield, with an 18-year-old on the other wing and Anderson being used in his other position of AMC.

With the African Cup of Nations and injury suddenly leaving me with 0 first-team strikers, Lara and John start as the only senior strikers available, despite me trying to sell both of them.

4-3-1-2: Butler; Hampson, Preston, Ansell, Pepper; Griffiths, Darlington (c), Topic; Anderson; Lara, John

--------------------------------------------------------------

(5th, PL) Man Utd 0 - 1 Middlesbrough (12th, PL)
MU Disallowed Goal: John (40)
M Goal: (90+1)

- Boro dominated and we had few chances. They scored with a free kick at the end.

- Despite the result, the youngsters had at least a decent performance.

So a team of backup, reserves and youth reached the semis, beating Premier League Blackburn away then Championship Southampton and Premier League behemoths Newcastle at home. Not a bad run!

===================================


FA Cup - 4th Round

v Lincoln City (H) - 24/1/26

Club legend and record league appearance-maker Grant Brown was promoted from youth coach to manager in 2012. He's taken a team battling relegation from the football league to battling for a playoff spot in their first season in the Championship since 1961.

Team News

Youth players Pepper and Griffiths keep their place. The retiring Malinov gets a 2nd start. Up front, John isn't fit enough to start, so 16-year-old Porter partners Lara.

4-3-1-2: Butler; Souza, Castillo, Hamann (c), Pepper; Griffiths, Darlington, Malinov; Peres; Lara, Porter

--------------------------------------------------------------

(5th, PL) Man Utd 2 - 0 Lincoln (8th, Ch.)
2-0: Porter (19), Hamann (38)

- 16-year-old Porter scores his first ever goal! At Old Trafford!

- United veteran Lara, meanwhile, has failed to score in successive home games against League 2 Port Vale, Premier League Middlesbrough, and Championship Lincoln.

--------------------------------------------------------------

The biggest upset of the round saw Championship Crewe brush aside Premier League Norwich away from home, while Championship sides Leeds and Barnsley got draws away to Premier League Chelsea and Sheffield United (still struggling!). But all the remaining League 2 and League 1 sides have been knocked out.

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Loving this story and the attention to detail!  have just binge read through the last week or so. complete rags to riches story and you managed to stick it out with some of those teams through the thick and thin and when the results weren't going your way.

I find it fascinating that all / most of the ex pro's have a dabble in management and fail miserably, and then are somehow allowed back into another job just to get that team relegated!,  like their former player credibility excuses the fact they aren't cut out for management.  Do most of them stay in the management game? or go to Sky to become pundits?  :)

 

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2 hours ago, Bwortaang said:

Loving this story and the attention to detail!  have just binge read through the last week or so. complete rags to riches story and you managed to stick it out with some of those teams through the thick and thin and when the results weren't going your way.

I find it fascinating that all / most of the ex pro's have a dabble in management and fail miserably, and then are somehow allowed back into another job just to get that team relegated!,  like their former player credibility excuses the fact they aren't cut out for management.  Do most of them stay in the management game? or go to Sky to become pundits?  :)

Wow, thank you! That's a hell of a binge read! Especially on the Stories forum version without the pictures to break the text up. :lol: I estimate the game size becomes unsaveable around year 2100, so there's plenty more to come...

We're still only starting to see former players become manager. Often they'll start off as a coach or assistant for years until they get a chance as manager.

Teddy Sheringham's still in his first job (Milwall).

Woodgate I think is only on his 2nd job, still grafting in the Conference South.

I think Vidic started in Ireland or Wales and his 2nd job is at Hearts.

As I guess you saw, Lampard became so disillusioned at being fired in his jobs immediately after doing brilliantly that he just retired at the age of 42. So he's on BT Sport!

John Obi Mikel is in charge of Nigeria.

Ashley Cole is still trying to be a good manager. He's lasting a few months longer with each job! He's learning!

tenor.gif

 

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Hi there! Thanks for such valuable and detailed info! 

 

Quote

Castillo comes out after the match and says he's being victimized by referees due to his reputation. Last season he got 8 yellows and 3 reds, and nearly always gets sent off at least once a season.

 

Well yeah, but is that only because he's being victimized? But the funniest thing here is that I found you through ()and I'm very glad to find people that share the same interests! 

 

Quote

The bookings were harsh, but it was still an awful performance and he's warned to be more careful. He shouldn't have given away the fouls anyway.

 

Oh, I talked about that with my husband. Indeed, that was an awful performance...

 

 

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Jan/Feb 2026 - The Impact of Emergency Loans...

Emergency Loans

I looked up the loan market after we lost all our real strikers to the African Cup of Nations and injury. Thankfully the 2 cup games meant there was ample time to get loans in for the real matches:

------------------------------------------------------------

Alexandre - AMC/ST - 31, Brazilian (16 goals in 45 caps), loan from Hamburger SV (Bundesliga) - Pace 13, Jumping 18, Strength 19, Finishing 17, Off The Ball 20, Dribbling 19, Passing 19, Long Shots 20

Alexandre left Brazil at 18 to join AC Milan, where he was used mainly as a substitute, but still managed 12 league goals in 10(19) matches to help them to back-to-back Serie A titles.

He joined Hamburger SV on a free in 2016 and has been a mainstay, his 146 goals and 59 assists leading to 3 Bundesliga titles and a shock Champions League trophy. This season he was still being used, getting 3 goals and 4 assists in 7(8) league games.

He has been Brazil's main striker for 8 years, and his 5 goals and 1 assist helped them lift the 2023 Copa América trophy.

Apparently he completely lacks in decision-making and composure, but that evidently hasn't troubled him. Although too old to be a long-term solution, as a stop-gap loan he seems great. He's also friends with winger Topic, who joined from Hamburger in the summer.

------------------------------------------------------------

Although we should have enough strikers now, another comes in from AC Milan. He was loan-listed and sitting in their reserves with no interest from other clubs, so why not?

------------------------------------------------------------

Paul Brouwers - ST - 23, Dutch (U21), loan from AC Milan (Serie A) - Pace 16, Jumping 16, Strength 12, Finishing 19, Off The Ball 18

Brouwers' only proper runs in teams have been from 2 separate loans in Serie B and the Dutch second-tier. He scored 9 goals in only 6 caps for the Dutch Under-21s and got a couple of Serie A goals in his handful of appearances for Fiorentina.

He lacks the strength, but there's no risk here so no harm in completing the loan.

==================================


Premier League

v Preston North End (A) @ Deepdale - 28/1/26

In the previous meeting at Old Trafford, we threw away a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2, which led to my infamous rant where I called the players "bellends".

Preston are strong in midtable, as all Mike Newell teams are, and have kept 6 clean sheets in the last 8 games.

The away team have failed to win in the last 7 meetings.

Team News

The new loanees both start, while the 16-year-old goalscorer Porter gets to be on the bench. It was a choice between him or one of the players I'm trying to sell, and what's the point in a youth policy if you're going to put an old foreigner who isn't good enough any more in front of them?

4-4-2 Diamond: Majava; Souza, Rafiei, Castillo, Hamann; Topic, King (c), McIntosh; Anderson; Brouwers, Alexandre

------------------------------------------------------------

(10th) Preston 4 - 0 Man Utd (5th)
4-0: (28, 89), (72), (81)

- What causes this team to completely choke away from home? In our last 8 away games, we've won 1, lost 6, and scored in only 2 of them, including a draw to a League 2 side.

==================================


v Charlton Athletic (H) - 31/1/26

We beat yo-yo club Charlton earlier in the season 2-0, thanks in part to their wastefulness. This should be a routine win.

Team News

Pressley makes a long-awaited return after 2 months out. The strikers picked are the only 2 with a condition over 90% (92%, 100%).

4-3-1-2: Majava; Souza, Preston, Rafiei, Hamann (c); Pressley, Ryan, Topic; Anderson; Alexandre, Peres

------------------------------------------------------------

(6th) Man Utd 2 - 0 Charlton (16th)
MU Disallowed Goal: Peres (3)
2-0: Preston (11), Alexandre (45+3)

- We dominated them all match. They only had 2 shots, neither on target. Their keeper stopped it being a bad result, saving 8 of our 10 shots on target.

- Alexandre, a long shot specialist, scored a perfect free-kick that curled into the far post.

------------------------------------------------------------

A surprise result saw bottom-half West Ham beat surprise title-challengers Man City 5-1 in London.


==================================

The transfer window closes with me unable to sell any players. We mutually agreed to terminate one player without compensation so he could play elsewhere, but there's still well over £200,000 in wages being spent on players who I'm trying to sell.

==================================


v Ipswich Town (H) - 4/2/26

Ipswich were last in the Premier League in 2002. By 2009, they had been relegated to League One. After a quick promotion and relegation, they stayed in League One for a while. In 2018, they won promotion again to the Championship and became a play-off challenging side, and now they're finally back in the Premier League.

They're currently managed by Steve Potts, who worked his way up from managing in the Conference with Blackpool to Ipswich in the Championship.

This season hasn't gone well for the team accurately predicted bottom, with only 2 wins in 24 games and 11 points away from 19th place. In their last 7 away games, they've conceded 20 goals.

Team News

With players surprisingly tired, and playing the easiest game of the season before going to New Anfield, the question is how far do I go in playing a second-string?

Darlington plays in his weaker position of centre-back. We probably won't use wingers against Liverpool, so Topic plays as does old retiree Malinov. Alexandre is tested at AMC and Adams returns from injury alongside Brouwers, so both strikers will probably be too tired to start the Liverpool game now anyway.

4-3-1-2: Majava; Souza, Darlington, Castillo, Farley; Topic, Ryan (c), Malinov; Alexandre; Brouwers, Adams

------------------------------------------------------------

(5th) Man Utd 5 - 0 Ipswich (20th)
5-0: Alexandre (2, 35); Peres (17, 39, 45)

- It was a bloodbath. An immediate lead turned into 5-0 by half time, with over 20 shots.

- Topic made 3 assists and nearly scored from a couple long-range cross-shots himself.

- Loanee Brouwers played the whole match but had only 1 shot on target from his 6 attempts. He made an assist as the triangle of him, Peres and Alexandre tore them apart, but he needs match fitness.


==================================

It was a day of shocks in the FA Cup 4th round replays, as Championship clubs Barnsley and Leeds beat Premier League Sheffield United and Chelsea at home.

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Feb 2026 - 11 Days Define A Season (and Spurs Win a Trophy)

Back-to-back Defending champions South Africa are surprisingly knocked out at the group stage of the African Cup of Nations, so star striker Sibiya and in-form AMC Tsotetsi return to the club. Tsotetsi was emotional in giving me thanks after he made his international debut. Both played well, but it was only against Mali that Sibiya scored (twice), with Tsotetsi assisting one of the goals.

Sibiya is now 3 goals behind Premier League top scorer Tino Schupp, who has 16 goals for Man City.

==============================================


Premier League

v Liverpool (A) @ New Anfield - RIVALS - 8/2/26

At Old Trafford, a wonder goal from central midfielder Ryan saw us win 1-0 in a tactical masterclass.

But the last time Man Utd won at New Anfield was over 12 years ago, yet we're slight favourites despite this and our awful away form.

Team News

In the home match, I set the team up in an unconventional 3-3-1-3 to undo their 5-3-2. We controlled and won the game, so I'm trying it again.

Sibiya and Tsotetsi are fit and ready after the AFCoN. Fitness-wise, the 3 strikers pick themselves, but it would've been hard to leave out Peres after his unexpected quick hat-trick against Ipswich.

While winger Topic is fired up for the match, I need defensive players as wing-backs, so he'll have to fidget on the bench.

This is only a couple of players away from my first-choice XI, with everyone starting fit and in good morale individually.

3-3-1-3: Majava; Souza, Rafiei, Castillo; Preston, King (c), Hamann; Tsotetsi; Sibiya, Peres, Alexandre

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(6th) Liverpool 2 - 1 Man Utd (4th)
2-0: (5, 61)
2-1: Preston (64)

- Although they scored early, after half an hour the game turned and we were the threat.

- After half-time, they tried to hold onto the lead, only doubling it thanks to 2 fouls giving them a free-kick in the D, which still had to be rebounded in after a save from Majava.

- A MOTM performance from their keeper stopped us getting anything as the game devolved into crosses, corners and free-kicks into their packed area as football turned into pinball. He made insane point-blank saves from rocket shots inside the area, nearly every cross was cleared, and he caught every indirect free-kick in the box despite one of our defenders always on top of him ready to nod it into the open goal.

- A controversial decision not to give us a penalty in the 43rd minute didn't help.

On this display, the team is close to being a real challenger in the Big 6.


==============================================

Nigeria and Morocco both lost their AFCoN quarter-finals, so strikers Kanu and Boussoufa return. Big signing Kanu got his fitness back at last and scored in 4 games in a row, plus an assist, before his country lost 3-0 to Ivory Coast. Boussoufa's standout game came against Ivory Coast, scoring 2 and making 1 in the 5-1 shock win.

==============================================


Europa League - 1st Knockout Round, 1st leg

v NAC Breda (H) - 12/2/26

NAC have finished 3rd-6th in the Dutch Eredivisie for 9 seasons in a row, and they won the KNVB Cup in 2022.

This season was their debut in the Champions League group stage, finishing 3rd as expected, and they beat Sevilla 2-1 at home. Their Europa League form is erratic.

Incidentally, we'll be playing against a young player who'll be joining us in the summer, when his contract expires.

Team News

The squad for the knockout stages of the Europa League is registered, with a maximum of 3 additions/replacements allowed. So I'm able to add Anderson, who's done well in AMC, and big signing Kanu who hopefully doesn't get injured again. It means strikers Santos and loanees Alexandre and Brouwer miss out.

With a rematch at New Anfield against Liverpool in under 3 days in the FA Cup, there's no reason to prioritise the Europa League yet. So the team is mostly players who probably won't start in 3 days.

Narrow 4-3-1-2: Butler; Souza, Preston, Darlington, Farley; Topic, Ryan (c), Anderson; Tsotetsi; Adams, Boussoufa

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(4th, EPL) Man Utd 2 - 1 NAC (9th, Eridivisie)
1-0: Own Goal (13)
1-1: (69)
2-1: Adams (76)

- They packed their area and didn't look for an away goal, yet somehow still got one with their 1 shot on target. A match that played like a 3-0 win ended up a 2-1 thanks to a bizarre own goal. Despite the win, it's a feeling of disappointment.

- Who got their assist? The guy signing for us in the summer.

==============================================


FA Cup - 5th Round

v Liverpool (A) @ New Anfield - RIVALS - 15/2/26

We played this fixture only a week ago. Liverpool won 2-1, but only thanks to their superhuman MOTM goalkeeper.

Team News

Again I'll use the 3-3-1-3 'v Liverpool tactic', with a few tactical tweaks based on how last week's game went.

In the 2-1 loss, I used defensive wing-backs. It turns out they did a lot of attacking and little defending. So this time I'm using the balanced Pressley and attacking winger Anderson.

Kanu makes his first start in 3 months after injury and the AFCoN, where he scored in 4 matches in a row.

With the possibility of the game going the same way (a box full of players and us resorting to crosses), I'm allowing some long shot specialists to take long shots in this game.

3-3-1-3: Majava; Souza, Rafiei, Preston; Pressley, King (c), Anderson; Alexandre; Sibiya, Peres, Kanu

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(5th, PL) Liverpool 3 - 0 Man Utd (4th, PL)
3-0: (16), (62), (90+3)

- Spookily exactly like last time: they scored an early goal out of nowhere, sat back for a 1-0 win, then got a 2nd thanks to a rebound from a free kick anyway.

- Although, again, they had their keeper to thank for a few great saves, this time our failure to get anything at the other end was more down to 13 of our 16 shots being off target. We needed any 1 of our 4 starting strikers on form, and none of them were, so we scored 0.

- Their last goal was luck, another free kick, this time somehow coming off the crossbar, onto the far post and 1mm over the line.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Despite 0 shots out of their 7 being on target, Championship Cardiff kept Premier League Man City to a 0-0 draw and replay after a missed penalty.

After knocking out Chelsea, Championship Leeds got a 1-1 draw at Premier League Leicester.

==============================================


Europa League - 1st Knockout Round, 2nd Leg

v NAC Breda (A) @ Rat Verlegh Stadion - 19/2/26

NAC stole an away goal in the 1st leg as they easily lost 2-1. They've had no matches and are fully rested for the home game at their completely rectangular stadium.

Team News

It's still only the Europa League but this is the only cup left to play for, and the next game is 4 days away, so I'm playing a strong side.

Young Butler continues in goal. He failed to keep clean sheets against League Two Port Vale or in the 2 League Cup semi legs against Boro, but experience doesn't hurt and #1 Majava hasn't been brilliant recently anyway.

King is usually the central midfielder for away matches, but he had a poor game and his form is uninspiring.

With a full choice of strikers, I go with Kanu and Adams as I won't play them in our next game. We should only need 1 goal.

4-4-2 Diamond: Butler; Souza, Preston, Castillo, Hamann (c); Topic, Darlington, Anderson; Tsotetsi; Kanu, Adams

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(9th, Eredivisie) NAC 1 - 0 Man Utd (4th, PL)
(2-2 on agg, NAC win 1-0 on away goals)
1-0: (25)

- I can't stand my team. Why can't they keep a clean sheet? Why don't they do ANYTHING away from home? What the **** is wrong with them?

- They just needed one goal, but a £30m striker who scored 4 in 4 matches in Africa and another who scored in the 1st leg can only muster 1 ****ing shot, off-target, between them.


==============================================

We announce a link with Argentinos Juniors, a midtable Superliga Argentina side with a lot of scouting knowledge.

==============================================


==============================================

Tottenham finally win something (excluding the Championship title twice) after 18 years (remember their infamous Spursy Treble?) by beating Middlesbrough 2-0 in the League Cup final.
 

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Feb to March 2026 - The 'Everyone's 7/10 But Still Loses LOL' Run Returns

Premier League

v Portsmouth (H) - 23/2/26

Portsmouth are a stable midtable side after getting promoted in 2003. They were Europa League regulars, but haven't qualified again since reaching the semis 5 years ago. They also lifted the FA Cup in 2020.

But it's been a worrying season. They sacked American Paul Bravo in December after only 9 months and with the club in the relegation zone. New manager Damian Roden's debut was a 1-1 draw away to surprise leaders Man City, and they're getting points now.

It's been nearly 11 years since Man Utd haven't won at home to Portsmouth.

Team News

Young striker Santos is getting annoyed at not getting a game, despite only coming back from injury a few weeks ago and not being eligible for the Europa League games, so he starts.

The team is picked on form and performance as we try to overcome poor form, so star striker Sibiya doesn't start after a barren second half to the season. He and Tsotetsi were in such hot form before the African Cup of Nations.

Narrow 4-3-1-2: Majava; Souza, Rafiei, Preston, Hamann; King (c), Darlington, Ryan; Anderson; Santos, Alexandre

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(5th) Man Utd 2 - 1 Portsmouth (18th)
0-1: (19)
2-1: Souza (pen 29, pen 86)
P Red Card: (90)

- Yet again, the opposition have 1 shot on target and score with it. What has happened to my clean sheets?

- Anderson won 2 penalties and Souza put both away, belying his Composure of 5.

So much for using 'in-form' players. It's a worrying but familiar run for me - suddenly my great strikers can't even get a shot on target, never mind a goal, and goals are conceded with no one at fault. The run where everyone plays 7/10 yet we lose. But at least this time we won somehow.

We're 3 games behind everyone else, yet we're in 4th place on 50 points, same as Liverpool and Chelsea (but above them on goal difference). With no more cups, this is our chance to pull away. If we win the 3 games in hand, we would not only strengthen our Champions League position, we'd actually top the table.

 

=====================================================

Championship side Leeds United do it again, knocking out another Premier League side, Leicester, after extra time in their FA Cup 5th round replay.

=====================================================
 

v Blackburn Rovers (A) @ Ewood Park - RIVALS - 2/3/26

As well as winning 2-0 at home, we've played Blackburn away this season already too - in the League Cup with a reserve/youth side, beating them 2-0 with both goals in stoppage time.

Team News

A change is needed to get through this bad form. Away to a relegation-battling team who will probably be defensive, I can play Pressley and McIntosh as wing-backs at last, something I've been wanting since their bright start to the season together. The formation changes from 4-4-2 diamond to basically 4-1-1-2-2 with WBs.

Defensive midfielder's King lack of strength in the air is finally catching up to him and he's dropped for Darlington.

4-1-3-2: Majava; Pressley, Souza, Rafiei, McIntosh; Darlington; Ryan (c); Tsotetsi, Anderson; Sibiya, Alexandre

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(19th) Blackburn 1 - 0 Man Utd (4th)
1-0: (83)

- I can't even lay into the team as goalkeeper Majava was 8/10 and everyone except Anderson, Alexandre and 2 of the subs were 7/10. Just like I said earlier.

- Alexandre had 6 shots and none of them were on target, costing us the match. Just like I said earlier.

I would've been ok with a point given our form. This is a disaster, the away form is impossible, the players are choking for no reason.

Perhaps most infuriating, and strange, is how completely unmoved the players are. My team talks don't do anything, no matter what I say, and when they lose their individual morale is still good! Yet all season, even when on a winning streak, the assistant manager says the team's morale is poor.

I don't understand any of what's happening right now.

=====================================================

v Portsmouth (A) @ Fratton Park - 11/3/26

We only played Portsmouth 2 matches ago, when we only won thanks to 2 penalties after going behind. Despite still being in the relegation zone, they have to be favourites today as they've only lost 2 matches at home all season and they won the last 2 home matches against United 2-1.

Team News

Injuries and suspension means Portsmouth are going to have to resort to playing youth and backup, probably at right-back, so I'll use wingers. Back to 4-4-2 diamond.

Souza is fired up for this match.

4-4-2 Diamond: Majava; Souza, Preston, Rafiei, Hamann (c); Pressley, Darlington, Topic; Anderson; Santos, Sibiya

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(18th) Portsmouth 0 - 1 Man Utd (4th)
MU Disallowed Goal: Adams (28)
0-1: Adams (90+2)

- There were goalline scrambles in our area which could've resulted in Portsmouth goals on another day, but players were making blocks and the keeper was making saves.

- Sibiya was injured early, but sub Adams won the game with a (near-)MOTM performance. He scored within 5 minutes of coming on, after a killer long ball from the halfway line by fired-up defender Souza, but it was disallowed despite looking just onside. He finally scored after an intercepted goal kick from fellow sub McIntosh, this time possibly marginally offside. It all balances out.

- The fired-up Souza won MOTM.

- Alexandre came on in the last 10 minutes and still couldn't hit the target with his 2 shots, making it 11 shots off-target in a row now.

- Sibiya is out for 3 weeks, but the once on-fire striker was out of form anyway.

 

=====================================================

After scraping through and knocking us out on away goals, NAC Breda eased past Barcelona 3-1 on aggregate to reach the Europa League quarter-finals.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Man Utd U-18s win the Group 3 title for the 9th season in a row.

=====================================================


v Arsenal (H) - RIVALS - 15/3/26

Arsenal were heavy favourites at the Emirates, yet we took the lead 3 times with set-pieces, but we lost 4-3 in the last minute. If it wasn't for our young goalkeeper, Butler, it would've been worse.

Arsenal's 9-match unbeaten start ended in the very next game away to Leicester, but that was a small hiccup for Michael Laudrup's side. They're still in contention for a Treble.

Team News

Arsenal play a rare 4-2-3-1. In the away game, we played a 4-3-1-2/4-4-2 diamond. We scored from 2 throws and a free-kick, but Arsenal could've scored more than 4 goals. Also, their central defence is probably the strongest in the air in the world. So I'm going to try a christmas tree formation of 4-5-1 (or 4-1-2-2-1). It's no use wasting 2 strikers if they're going to be outmuscled, so 2 attacking central midfielders will have to be the threat as we play the ball on the ground.

Adams isn't our physically strongest striker, but he's the only striker to have scored in 7 games (twice).

Xmas Tree 4-1-2-2-1: Majava; Rafiei, Souza, Preston, Hamann; Pressley, Darlington, McIntosh; Alexandre, Anderson; Adams

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(4th) Man Utd 0 - 3 Arsenal (1st)
0-3: (30), (51, 62)

- Even losing 3-0, it's still not the poor display it appears. The plan to use 2 attacking central midfielders and Adams as striker was effective and was a threat. Arsenal simply scored with a 'worldy' outside the area. Then, for some reason the team fell apart in the second half. It is Arsenal after all.

The other Manchester club beat Arsenal 2-1 in their FA Cup replay; they had one player who could take his chances from crosses/corners.

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Mar to Apr 2026 - Manchester derby, 2 games in 3 days, first relegation

Premier League

v Ipswich Town (A) @ Portman Road - 25/3/26

We destroyed Steve Potts' side 5-0 in just 45 minutes a month ago, but since then they won both their home games against Charlton and Portsmouth 1-0, their first clean sheets in 12 games.

Team News

With City the next match, this is as much about hopefully getting some other players in form. We should assume we'll win, despite Ipswich's last 2 home wins.

The standout performers in the 5-0 win were attackers Peres (3 goals) and Alexandre (2 goals), and winger Topic (3 assists), with the triangle of the AMC and 2 STs having fun. But Alexandre is the only one to even make the bench today.

Santos has been unsettled about the lack of games and this is a great opportunity for £29.5m signing Kanu to finally get his first goal in his injury-plagued debut season.

Narrow 4-3-1-2: Majava; Souza, Rafiei, Preston, Hamann (c); Tsotetsi, Darlington, Ryan; Anderson; Kanu, Santos

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(20th) Ipswich 1 - 2 Man Utd (5th)
1-0: (33 secs)
1-2: Santos (18), Ryan (35)

- They immediately lead via a top class curler outside the area that wins Goal of the Month. But Ipswich are so poor that we could still be confident of getting a few goals. But Ipswich were always a threat and we made it hard for ourselves, however we get the 3 points.

- Alexandre came on in the 88th minute and... missed his shot as usual.

- Brazilian Santos got a yellow for diving and he's been warned.

=====================================================================================


v Manchester City (A) @ The City of Manchester Stadium - RIVALS - 10/2/19

City had been the better team, finishing higher than United for the past 2 seasons. But our first meeting this season saw us beat a City team who were top and had 5 clean sheets in a row 1-0, United's first Manchester derby win in 4 years (9 matches).

Slobodan Drapic's side are unbeaten at home in the league and have only conceded 5 goals too. So maybe we should aim for a 0-0...

Team News

Unfortunately it's not the best of preparations as Rafiei and Preston, 2 key defenders, aren't confident about the game, but both have to play as I'll be playing a defensive line-up.

It's a 5-2-1-2 with a sweeper, so the positions pick themselves - all the first-team defenders, 2 defensive midfielders, Anderson who's doing well in AMC, and Adams and Santos who are the only strikers actually scoring now.

5-2-1-2: Majava; Souza; Rafiei, Preston, Castillo, Hamann; King (c), Darlington; Anderson; Santos, Adams

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(5th) Man City 0 - 0 Man Utd (4th)

- We actually dominated, with 60% possession and 12 shots to 5. By half-time, City were sitting back happy with 0-0 and taking long distance potshots.

- Once again, it was our finishing that stopped us getting more. Santos had 4 shots and Anderson had 5, but they missed 3 each. Only 3 of our 12 shots were on-target.

MOTM Darlington got injured and will be out for 1 - 2 months. Anderson is later injured in training and is out for a month. That's our 2 in-form central midfielders.


=====================================================================================

April sees the first time the club goes into the red in bank balance. The price of being unable to sell players in January, costing us over £200k a week in wages.

=====================================================================================


v Coventry City (H) - 4/4/26

We got an impressive 3-1 win in Coventry and Jaime Ordiales' team have only won 1 away game in the league, way back in August.

Team News

Bizarrely, after long breaks between games, we now have to play 2 games in 3 days. Away to Norwich should be harder than at home to Coventry, so my line-up is based on who I'm saving for Norwich.

4-3-1-2: Majava; Pressley, Souza, Castillo, Farley; Topic, Ryan (c), Malinov; Alexandre; Kanu, Boussoufa

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(4th) Man Utd 0 - 0 Coventry (14th)

- As I feared, we couldn't get a goal with our second-string team.

- 10 shots, 8 off target. But at least Alexandre got 1 on target at last...
 

=====================================================================================

Every team in the top 5 drew, and everyone plays again in 2 days. If we can get 3 points with a fresh team, I'm going to be praised.

=====================================================================================


v Norwich City (A) @ Carrow Road - 6/4/26

We beat Michael Skibbe's side 1-0 at home without being really threatened. They're likely safe from relegation now and look forward to a 4th season in the top tier.

They've failed to score in 4 games, including three 0-0 draws, but in the 2 games before that, they scored 8, conceding only 1. They do play a defensive 4-4-2, with 2 DMs not CMs.

Team News

A fresh first team plays.

Narrow 4-3-1-2: Majava; Souza, Rafiei, Preston, Hamann; Ryan, King (c), McIntosh; Alexandre; Adams, Santos

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(13th) Norwich 0 - 1 Man Utd (4th)
0-1: Adams (82)

- Norwich hit the crossbar twice in the 1st half.

- It became clear they were having trouble beating our strikers to long balls, so I told the team to just hoof it up there.

- Shots kept going off-target, but were still threatening. Eventually, a long-ranger from Ryan meant Adams could squeeze in a rebound late on.

=====================================================================================


v Sheffield Wednesday (H) - 12/4/26

We enjoyed an easy 2-0 win away to the midtable side in November. They've stayed just above the relegation zone since then, so aren't safe at all. The only team to have scored less goals than their 20 in 33 is rock-bottom side Ipswich. This is their only problem, as their goals conceded total (36) is relatively good.

Mladen Krstajic left a month ago to take charge of top-half Bundesliga side Gladbach, and his replacement was... the just-fired Gladbach manager, who stole an impressive draw at Treble-chasing Newcastle and has 5 points from 4 games.

Team News

Narrow 4-3-1-2: Majava; Rafiei, Souza, Preston, Hamann (c); Tsotetsi, Ryan, McIntosh; Peres; Adams, Santos

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(3rd) Man Utd 1 - 0 Sheff Wed (15th)
SW Second Yellow: (88)
1-0: Souza (90+1)

- It looked like another game where it just wouldn't go in and the away team would get the 0-0 they deserved, then they made a big mistake...

- ...They gave away a free kick on the flank, meaning a free cross, where we're at our deadliest. All Adams needed to do was hit it in the 6-yard box and Souza just needed to be there to nod it in.

There were 2 knocks and a proper injury. Key defender Preston is out until maybe the last game of the season.


=====================================================================================

Ipswich have been relegated with 4 games to go. They currently have only 21 points.

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Apr to May 2026 - Squeaky Bum Time

Premier League

v West Ham United (A) @ Boleyn Ground - RIVALS - 20/4/26

We managed a 1-0 win with 10 men thanks to a deflected own goal at Old Trafford. Globetrotting Gareth Southgate's midtable side's recent home record includes a 3-0 loss to Liverpool, but also a win against Treble-chasing Newcastle and beating Man City 5-1!

The away team has only scored once in the last 6 meetings.

Team News

Narrow 4-3-1-2: Majava; Pressley, Rafiei, Souza, Hamann; Tsotetsi, King (c), Ryan; Alexandre; Adams, Santos

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(10th) West Ham 3 - 1 Man Utd (3rd)
3-0: (3, 10, 50)
3-1: Adams (62)

- Yet another away day collapse.

- The match was fast-paced from the start, with 4 shots in the first few minutes. The 4th one, West Ham's 1st attempt, went in.
 

=====================================================================================

However, relegation-battling Charlton snatched a draw with a 94th minute equaliser at home to Liverpool, while Man City lost away to 10-man Sheffield United. So with 3 games to go, the top 6 looks like this:

League Tables After 34 Games

1 - Arsenal - 74
2 - Newcastle Utd - 65 (+28 GD)
3 - Man Utd - 64 (+20 GD)
4 - Man City - 63 (+18 GD)
---------------------------
5 - Liverpool - 61 (+25 GD)*
6 - Chelsea - 61 (+16 GD)

*Liverpool have a game in hand.

We had a strong goal difference but, after Liverpool's 3-0 win over us and our heavy away losses, it's not as good any more.

=====================================================================================


v Newcastle United (H) - RIVALS - 26/4/26

Newcastle's disastrous start recovered once they'd finally replaced Geordie legend Sir Steve McClaren with Marcelino García Toral in September.

They can only win the title on goal difference, but they have to keep trying for the impossible.

They were embarrassed by us in the League Cup, as their first team lost at Old Trafford to our reserve/youth side which included a couple of 16-year-olds. They later beat us in the league 1-0, although turncoat Santos missed 4 chances to score against his now-former club. At home, he should get more.

Although we are talking about a team trying to match our Treble.

Team News

Young #2 Butler is injured for the rest of the season, so I don't even have to think about whether underperforming keeper Majava should keep his place.

We struggled away to Newcastle until we changed to an advanced 4-1-3-2, so I'll stick with the 4-3-1-2 with 2 CMs attacking to join the AMC.

Anderson is fit enough to return from his injury.

Narrow 4-3-1-2: Majava; Pressley, Rafiei, Souza, Hamann (c); Tsotetsi, Ryan, McIntosh; Anderson; Adams, Santos

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(4th) Man Utd 1 - 3 Newcastle Utd (3rd)
1-0: (9)
1-1: Sibiya (86)
3-1: (90+1, 90+3)

- While everyone gets shouted at, my anger is truly reserved for Majava the goalkeeper and their striker's marker Rafiei. For their 2nd goal, their striker dribbled round Rafiei and just hit it in. For their 3rd, Rafiei wasn't tight and a long-range shot simply went past the keeper as if he just stood there and watched it.
 

=====================================================================================

Liverpool are the only team to drop points as Arsenal won the title at New Anfield with a 0-0 draw.

After 36 games, we drop from 3rd to 4th, potentially 5th.

League Table After 35 Games

2 - Newcastle Utd - 68 (+30 GD)
3 - Man City - 66 (+19 GD)
4 - Man Utd - 64 (+18 GD)
--------------------------------------
5 - Chelsea - 64 (+17 GD)
6 - Liverpool 62 (+25 GD)*

*Liverpool have a game in hand.

Now we can win both remaining games and not finish in the top 4...

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

#3 keeper Dupraz comes into my office. The 24-year-old officially requests a transfer, annoyed that he's not getting first team games. He was given a chance early in the season, but he wasn't good enough, and the other 2 keepers were better.

"That's brilliant timing that is. You are a very stupid boy..."

"I know it's the toughest part of the season, but-"

"...I'd already decided I'm going to start you in the next match. Your request is rejected."

I don't think that's how he thought that was going to go.

=====================================================================================

v West Bromwich Albion (A) @ The Hawthorns - 2/5/26

An incredible record - before beating Spurs 1-0 away a week ago, West Brom hadn't scored in 12 matches. Unsurprisingly, this has put them at risk of relegation.

We walloped them 4-0 at home earlier this season.

Team News

As you saw, Keeper Majava is dropped and likely won't play for the club again. The 36-year-old's body has given up at the worst time. With young Butler injured, Dupraz, who had handed in a transfer request, gets the start he wants.

It's a return to a 4-4-2 diamond, although WBA's historic ineptitude in front of goal means I'm going to be more attacking even though it's a dreaded away game, so it's more a 4-3-1-2, thus the more attack-minded Ryan plays in the middle.

Strikers Sibiya and Adams are in a superb mood so will start.

World class defender Preston is back from injury and is on the bench.

4-3-1-2: Dupraz; Souza, Rafiei, Castillo, Hamann; Topic, Ryan, McIntosh; Anderson; Adams, Sibiya

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(18th) WBA 0 - 0 Man Utd (4th)

- WBA dominated until they decided to sit back, happy with a point. We didn't really get a chance despite, given how other scores were going, eventually playing with 9 attackers and 1 played staying back.

Morale is now "rock bottom", after only briefly rising when we were in good form. This lot are mental cases, not "determined" at all...
 

=====================================================================================

League Table After 37 Games

4 - Chelsea - 67 (+18)
---------------------------
5 - Liverpool - 65 (+25)
6 - Man Utd - 65 (+18)

A win would've seen us in charge. Instead, we keep dropping. Now we need to win and hope both Chelsea and Liverpool don't.

=====================================================================================


v Middlesbrough (H) - 10/5/26

Paul Ince's Boro have a great record against us. We've lost 1-0 in all 3 meetings this season (though 2 of them involved reserves in the League Cup semis). This means United haven't beaten them in 6 matches. However, the League Cup semi was the first time in 9 matches that the away team scored.

Team News

Consistent veteran defender Hamann was injured and only makes the bench, though we'll need attacking full-backs to get the win we need, so wing-back/winger McIntosh will play there.

Striker Adams is the only player looking forward to this match, while star man Sibiya's head has gone. I decide to give injury-plagued record signing Kanu a chance. A disrupted debut season for the big money £29.5m striker could end on a relative high note...

Narrow 4-3-1-2: Dupraz; Souza, Rafiei, Preston, McIntosh; Tsotetsi, King (c), Ryan; Anderson; Kanu, Adams

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(6th) Man Utd 2 - 2 Middlesbrough (7th)
0-1: (4)
2-1: Adams (7), Kanu (14)
2-2: (pen 60)

- Chokers to the end, my players immediately concede in a must-win game, and a controversial penalty means we're not even allowed one smidge of happiness to end the season.

- Kanu finally scores, but the penalty ruins the feel-good.

- Though a win wouldn't have been enough anyway.

=====================================================================================

As doom and gloom as it all feels, the United fans have seen a slight improvement overall this season. Although they saw their team finish 'bottom of the Big 6' again, it's with more points and goals, slight improvement in the cups, and we were even in contention for the title. And although our away form felt dire, it was actually the 3rd best in the league.

I made Old Trafford a fortress and the fans mostly saw wins this season. My first game was a 5-0 win at home to Spurs, and we only lost to the Big 2 of Newcastle and Arsenal here (and the League Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough).

So, as far as the lap of honour and speech goes, I say we're close. I remind the fans that in the first half of the season we were on fire, then for some reason it fell away in the second half. Just a couple more goals or clean sheets would've changed the mood today completely in a highly competitive top 6.

After sleep, the season is over and the start of next season begins. So I review my squad and what's to come...

=====================================================================================


Final Position

4 - Liverpool - 68 (+27)
---------------------------------
5 - Chelsea - 68 (+18)
6 - Man Utd - 66 (+18)
---------------------------------
7 - Middlesbrough - 56

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Posted (edited)

2025/26 Season Review

Competitions

Premier League

Standings

1 - Arsenal - 81
2 - Newcastle - 70 (+30 GD)
3 - Man City - 70 (+21)
4 - Liverpool - 68 (+27)
---------------------------------
5 - Chelsea - 68 (+18)
6 - Man Utd - 66
---------------------------------
7 - Middlesbrough - 56
8 - West Ham - 55
9 - Preston - 54
10 - Tottenham - 50*
11 - Norwich - 47
12 - Coventry - 45 (-2)*
13 - Leicester - 45 (-10)
14 - Sheffield Utd - 42
15 - Sheffield Wed - 41
16 - Blackburn - 37
17 - West Brom - 36
---------------------------------
18 - Portsmouth - 35
19 - Charlton - 33
20 - Ipswich - 24

*Tottenham and Coventry qualify for the Europa League due to winning the League Cup and a 'sporting play' bonus spot respectively.

Notable Results

W 5-0 v Tottenham (H) - Managerial debut
W 1-0 v Liverpool (H)
L 4-3 v Arsenal (A) - We lead 3 times before succumbing
W 1-0 v Man City (H)
L 4-0 v Preston (A) - Our heaviest defeat
W 5-0 v Ipswich (H) - 5-0 up by half-time
L 0-3 v Arsenal (H)
D 0-0 v Man City (A) - 4 points over City for the season, but finish below them
L 1-3 v Newcastle (H)

Notable Runs

25/9/25 to 6/12/25 - 8 clean sheets in 9 league games (13 in 15 in all games)
25/9/25 to 6/12/25 - Scored in 9 league games in a row (15 in a row for all games)
14/12/25 to 30/12/25 - Failed to score in 4 of 5 league games
8/2/26 to 10/5/26 - Only 5 wins in 14 league games (6 in 17)

In my first season, United finished 6th again, but with significantly more points, goals and wins.


Europa League

1st Round

W 3-1 v FC Haka (A)
W 3-0 v FC Haka (H)
(Man Utd win 6-1 on aggregate)

Group Stage

1 - PSV - 8
2 - Man Utd - 7
3 - Dynamo Dresden - 6
-----------------------------
4 - Visé - 2 (-3 GD)
5 - Nice - 2 (-9 GD)

W 1-0 v Visé (H)
D 1-1 v Dynamo Dresden (A)
W 6-0 v Nice (H)
L 2-0 v PSV (A)

1st Knockout Round

W 2-1 v NAC Breda (H)
L 1-0 v NAC Breda (A)
(2-2 on aggregate, NAC Breda win 1-0 on away goals)

After getting knocked out of the Champions League and then eliminating us, NAC Breda also beat Barcelona and Rangers before losing at the semi-finals.

We moved 5 places up the European rankings to 13th, the 4th-highest English club. This season was the club's 2nd-best performance in the past 5 years.


FA Cup

3R: D 1-1 v Port Vale (A)
Replay: W 2-1 AET v Port Vale (H)
4R: W 2-0 v Lincoln City (H)
5R: L 0-3 v Liverpool (A)


League Cup

3R: W 2-0 v Blackburn Rovers (A)
4R: W 2-0 v Southampton (H)
QF: W 1-0 v Newcastle United (H)

Semi-Finals

L 0-1 v Middlesbrough (A)
L 0-1 v Middlesbrough (H)
(Middlesbrough win 2-0 on aggregate)


Premier Reserve League

The reserves finished 8th in their 10-man group.

They broke the record for biggest loss in the group, losing 6-0 away to Sheffield Wednesday.


Under-18s' Record-Breaking Season

The under-18s won their group for the 9th year in a row, by 19 points in only a 22-game season, losing 1 game and scoring 63 goals, in fact scoring in every game.

Group records broken included goals scored (63, beating our own record by 10 goals), biggest win (6-0), highest-scoring game (a 5-3 win), most goals scored by a player (Aaron Porter with 29, 8 more than the record), most Man of the Match awards (Porter with 8) and longest unbeaten run (31, beating our own record by 7).


Confidence, Reputation & Finances

The board are still more or less 'pleased' with my performance and the finances (despite going into the red), but not with the final league position of 6th.

The fans are very pleased with the progress the club has been making and are in full support of my management of the club.

Reputation-wise, I'm still the only 'World Class' manager in the game.

Although the bank balance just went negative (which will be positive when the new season begins), the club rises 5 places to 10th-richest club in the world on the Rich List. Also the 3rd-richest in England, higher than Abramovich's Chelsea.


Awards

Despite the dead second half of the season, my signing Sibiya (ST) still won the Premier League Players' Player of the Year in his debut season, made it into the Team of the Season, and was United Fans' Player of the Year. He was also runner-up for England's 'signing of the season'.

Record-equalling United signing Kanu (ST) was the 'winner' of 'worst signing'.

For Premier League Players' Young Player of the Year, Tsotetsi (MC/AMC) was runner-up and Casey (ML), on loan to Charlton, came 3rd.

We also get 2nd and 3rd in Goal of the Season. Despite his loan acrimoniously being cut short, Guilbert's free kick against Coventry came 2nd - from the flank, he near-impossibly curled it all the way into the far post. Santos' narrow angle-shot, after dribbling past 2 defenders from the flank, against Charlton comes third.


Staff

Assistant manager Rene Meulensteen retires just half a year after joining. So Brian McClair and Tony Humes are my candidates for promotion to assistant.

Darren Fletcher returns to the club as a coach, rejoining former teammate John O'Shea. He signed as an 11-year-old and made around 300 appearances in 13 seasons before moving on to Celtic, Everton and Sunderland. He officially retired to become youth coach at Rangers before joining us.

Rob Swire's 35+ years as physio at Man Utd comes to an end.

Our retiring Bulgarian winger Malinov also joins the coaching setup.


Squad

Now for the fun part. There's a lot of deadwood to get rid of.

*Only first team squad and senior players are included

GK

20. Tomi Majava - 36 years old, Finland (84 caps), valued at £1.3m - Played 25, Conceded 24, Clean Sheets 13, Man of the Match 1, Average Rating 6.84
13. Thomas Butler - 22, England (U21), £6m - P 23, C 17, CS 11, AvR 6.87
1. Gilles Dupraz - 24, Tunisia (5) / France, £3m - P 7, C 6 , CS 3, MotM 1, AvR 6.86

With 2 very talented but young keepers, Majava was bought in as an experienced option if they faltered. They did, but Majava was reliable... until, at at some point near the end of the season, he couldn't save anything to the point he was dropped for the last 2 games. With his body aging and another good young keeper coming in the summer, I'll look to sell him.

33-year-old former regular Abdulla was loaned out to Spanish champions Real Betis and got an average rating of 6.82 with 54 goals conceded in 44 matches and 14 clean sheets, so he doesn't look a keeper.

IN - Butler, Dupraz, Abdel Aziz
OUT - Majava, Abdulla

DC

2. John Preston - DR/C, WBR - 31, Scotland (49), £3.4m - P 25(3), Goals 2, Assists 1, MotM 1, AvR 7.04
12. Souza - SW, DR/C - 27, Portugal (2 goals in 32 caps) / Brazil, £13.25m - P 40(1), G 3, A 1, MotM 4, AvR 7.12
25. Mohammad Ali Rafiei - DR/C - 29, Iran (23), £5.5m - P 33(2), A 1, MotM 2, AvR 7.00
19. Arturo Castillo - 28, Mexico (23), £7.75m - P 26(5), A 1, MotM 1, AvR 6.97
6. Michal Simak - 32, Czech Republic (1 in 63 ), £3.9m - P 13, AvR 7.08
21. Sasa Andjic - 34, Montenegro (1 in 64), £220k - P 4(1), AvR 7.40
+ Darlington, Hamann, King

Preston is a World Cup and Golden Ball winner, and he was missed when injured.

I bought Souza and Rafiei as the defence needed physical strength and pace. Rafiei is a specimen (19 Pace, 19 Jumping, 20 Strength), but several times a player he was marking rounded him and scored.

Castillo wasn't my signing. He lacks in strength, but was a pacier option. We have a really good centre-back coming in the summer so will get less games, but is still has a future as other players get older.

As you can see by the average ratings, despite leakiness at times, this should be a top defence.

IN - Preston, Souza, Rafiei, Castillo, Kirn, Aleksandrowicz
OUT - Andjic, Simak

DR

+ Preston, Souza, Rafiei

Wing-back/winger Pressley was tried here, but it turns out he's not a proper defender.

IN - Preston, Souza, Rafiei, Aleksandrowicz
OUT - None

DL

5. Martin Hamann - DL/C, WBL - 32, Austria (58), £2.9m - P 27(6), G 1, AvR 6.94
3. David Farley - WB/DL - 35, England (50), £400k - P 17(2), A 3, MotM 2, AvR 7.05
+ McIntosh?

World Cup runner-up Hamann was Mr Dependable, nearly always getting a 7/10 whether on the left or in the middle.

Farley has insane attributes that suggests Maldini in disguise, but in actual games his tackling is poor.

Wing-back/Winger McIntosh sometimes played here and we're trying to get him used to the position.

IN - Hamann, McIntosh?
OUT - Farley

MR

22. Roddy Pressley - WB/M/AMR - 29, Scotland (1 in 22) / England, £11m - P 17(9), G 4, A 2, AvR 6.77
33. Nicky Pryce - AMR/C - 31, England (7), £5.25m - P 8(1), G 1, A 1, AvR 7.11
+ Topic

Pressley had such a great start; he and McIntosh on the wings were destroying defence. But, after the injury, he suffered just as the rest of the team did in the second half of the season.

With Topic and Pressley injured, Pryce was used as emergency backup on the wing. His ratings are a red herring - his passing isn't good enough; in some matches, he doesn't get one key pass.

IN - Pressley, Topic, Aleksandrowicz
OUT - Pryce

ML

7. Steve McIntosh - WB/M/AML - 28, R.o.Ireland (8 in 41), £5.25m - P 30(5), G 2, A 6, MotM 1, AvR 6.97
11. Srdjan Topic - ML/R, AML/R - 27, Bosnia & Herzegovina (26), £8m - P 22(6), G 1, A 7, AvR 6.82
41. Petar Malinov - M/AML - 34, Bulgaria (2 in 68), Retiring - P 4(1), A 1, AvR 7.20
+ Anderson

As with everyone else, McIntosh was in brilliant form in 2025, but in 2026 the goals/assists dried up.

Anderson was quiet on the left, but then found his form playing AMC.

20-year-old Andy Casey went out on a season-long Premier League loan to relegated Charlton and got 5 assists in 38 games (3 in 30 league games) but came 3rd for the Young Players' Player of the Year award. Will he go out on loan again or make the step up next season? It's a big ask.

However a summer free transfer is coming in, someone who played really well for me during my ill-fated spell in Chile and is still delivering at 31 years old, helping Torino to a surprise 3rd-place finish.

After 8 seasons, nearly 300 appearances and 2 Europa League trophies, Malinov retires to become one of our coaches.

IN - McIntosh, Topic, Anderson, Casey?, Viveros
OUT - Malinov (retiring)

DM/MC

14. Bob Ryan - 29, England (4), £5m - P 29(1), G 2, A 5, AvR 7.07
17. Derek King - DC, DM/MC - 30, Scotland (4 in 48), £7.75m - P 18(10), A 3, MotM 1, AvR 6.89
4. James Darlington - DC, DM/MC - 33, England (15), £3.3m - P 21(5), G 1, MotM 2, AvR 7.08
+ Tsotetsi

Ryan was the attacking option, scoring a memorable goal outside the area in the 1-0 win over Liverpool at Old Trafford.

King was the more defensive 'away game' option, but he lacks strength and is easily beaten in the air. Even though he was one of our captains, he's going to be a surprise leaver in the summer.

When King's form suffered, Darlington did a real good job. However he doesn't look like he has another season in him and his contract has 1 year left.

Tsotetsi also turned out to be a good all-round option. When his form in AMC dried up, he did well deeper in MC.

There's already a young defender/midfielder arriving in the summer to take their spot though. He was in the Breda team that knocked us out of Europe, providing an assist.

IN - Ryan, Tsotetsi, Aleksandrowicz
OUT - King, Darlington

AMC

28. Anderson - 31, Brazil (2 in 36), £4.8m - P 30(5), G 1, A 9, MotM 2, AvR 7.00
24. Tsotetsi - 22, South Africa (3), £12.75m - P 26(8), G 4, A 4, MotM 1, AvR 6.94
10. Guillaume Peres - 25, France (9), £6m - P 16(18), G 4, A 4, MotM 1, AvR 6.71
+ Alexandre

Tsotetsi hit form just before the Africa Cup of Nations, but when he came back from Africa he didn't get it back. However his move to MC saw him play better, enough to help come runner-up for Young Players' Player of the Year.

Anderson found good form when he moved from ML to AMC.

Peres is physically great, but he's just not quite contributing enough. He's a Welbeck - will show up every now and then, but the rest of the time he's just there. He should be sold.

IN - Anderson, Tsotetsi
OUT - Peres, Alexandre (returns from loan)

ST

26. Neil Sibiya - 23, South Africa (6 in 10), £12.25m - P 27(6), G 15, A 4, MotM 4, AvR 7.18
29. Eric Kanu - 29, Nigeria (34 in 46) / England, £29.5m - P 7(6), G 1, A 1, AvR 6.38
18. Joe Adams - 30, R.o.Ireland (23 in 44), £13m - P 20(6), G10, A 7, MotM 4, AvR 7.19
15. Santos - 25, Brazil (1 in 11), £3m - P 20(11), G 7, A 1, MotM 1, AvR 6.58
8. Ali Boussoufa - 28, Morocco (15 in 31), £9.25m - P 13(8), G 7, A 2, MotM 2, AvR 7.00
16. Miguel Lara - 34, Colombia (17 in 55), £900k - P 9(3), G 4, A 1, AvR 7.00
9. Michael John - 33, England (4 in 15), £220k - P 3(1), AvR 6.75
LOANED IN - 23. Alexandre - AMC/ST - 32, Brazil (16 goals in 45 caps), £5.75m - P 11(5), G 3, A 1, MotM 1, AvR 6.81
LOANED IN - 44. Paul Brouwers - 23, Netherlands (U21), £6.25m - P 2(1), A 1, AvR 6.67
+ Peres

Sibiya was a sensation from the start, scoring a hat-trick on his debut and plenty more, with a penchant for running to impossible angles and squeezing it into the far post just for a challenge. His goalscoring form continued at the African Cup of Nations but, when he returned in February, he only scored 1 more goal and lost the chance to win the Golden Boot. His fellow players still voted him in the team of the year and awarded him Players' Player of the Year, while he was still joint-top for average rating for strikers.

Kanu was a joint-record signing at £29.5m (Rio Ferdinand signed in 2002 for "around £30m") on deadline day. He was immediately injured, and then got injured minutes into his return. He returned to fitness for the AFCoN and scored in 4 matches in a row, but he couldn't recreate that form on his return to England. He finally scored his first goal for United on the final day of the season.

Boussoufa only got 1 game in 2026. He could be worth keeping, but hasn't shown why yet, and his contract expires next summer.

Alexandre had pedigree and form, yet for us he went 13 shots in a row off-target. Had he been on-target more often, he'd have great stats.

Brouwers was an extra free loan, as Italy doesn't have a reserve league so it was a chance for him to get the odd game while we were out of strikers.

Also, it was a season to remember for 16-year-old Aaron Porter who scored his first ever goal, at Old Trafford no less. He's now been "dubbed the new Michael Owen". Obviously.

IN - Sibiya, Kanu, Adams, Santos, Boussoufa?
OUT - Lara, John, Alexandre (returning from loan), Brouwers (returning from loan)

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2025/26 Club Football Recap

Biggest Transfers

Eric Kanu (ST, Nigerian/English, 28) - Inter Milan to Man Utd - £29.5m
Aubrey Khabo (DC/L, South African, 25) - Man City to Arsenal - £29.5m
Fabrizio Galliano (MC/DMC, Italian, 25) - Fiorentina to AC Milan - £28m
Carlo Baldi (DLC/ML, Italian, 23) - Juventus to Bayern Munich - £28m
Juho Koski (M/AML, Finnish, 24) - HSV to Juventus - £26m
Luca Donzelli (M/AMRL, Italian/Argentinian, 23) - £25.5m


UEFA Champions League

Marcelino García Toral's Newcastle United and Michael Laudrup's Arsenal met in the final for the 3rd time in 6 years... and Arsenal have now lost their last 5 CL finals.

Newcastle scored in just 21 seconds as they took a 3-0 lead in 35 minutes to win the Champions League and FA Cup double.

Isaac Mizrahi's Lazio were surprise semi-finalists after beating defending champions David Moyes' Bayern Munich.


England

Premier League

It was a 6-horse race for a title that only Newcastle and Arsenal had won for the last decade. By Christmas, it was Slobodan Drapic's Man City who were surprisingly topping the table.

But in the end, it was a familiar story as Laudrup's Arsenal pulled away and won the title by 11 points, while 2 points separated 2nd and 5th, with Man United completing the Big 6 two points below.

Midtable regulars Portsmouth were relegated after 23 years in the Premier League.

Football League and Non-League

After 30 years away, Steve Cotterill's QPR miraculously achieved automatic promotion after yo-yoing between the Championship and League One and finishing 20th and 21st in the past 2 seasons.

Teddy Sheringham was sacked after over 6 years as manager of Millwall, his first management job. He was unable to save the club from relegation to League Two when he was promoted from assistant manager. They finished 6th next season and won the playoffs, but were relegated again the season after. They finished 6th back-to-back, but then finished 11th and are currently 16th.

It keeps getting worse and worse for Torquay United. After relegation from the football league in 2007, they've now suddenly been relegated from the National League.


Spain

José Mourinho's Real Madrid won the title by 17 points, conceding only 16 goals in 38 games.

Bizarrely, Pep Guardiola walked out on defending champions Real Betis at the end of 2025 to join top-half Greek club Ionikois.


Italy

The landscape changed completely this season.

A Milan club had won 18 of the last 20 titles. This year, Mizrahi's Lazio won their first since 2006 on the final day of the season, and 4 points separated the top 5.

Frank Yallop's Torino finished 3rd, under AC Milan but above Inter Milan, thanks to beating them 3-1 at the San Siro. They'll compete in the Champions League, their only appearance being in 1976/77.

On the final day, Roma's Brasilian-Portuguese attacker Edmílson doubled his league tally by scoring ALL FIVE GOALS IN THE FIRST 34 MINUTES as midtable Atalanta were relegated with a 5-1 loss (their goal only being an own goal too).

After finishing bottom of their only season in Serie A with 1 win and 15 points in 2023, little Cisco Roma returned and survived on the final day while Udinese and Atalanta went down after they all lost.


Germany

After two 0-0 draws and then losing the Europa League final on penalties, Werder Bremen still only needed to go to relegation-battling Nurnberg and match Bayern Munich's result to stop them winning their 4th Bundesliga in a row.

Bremen threw away a 1-0 lead in the last 10 minutes to lose 2-1, confirming Nurnberg's safety. But Bayern also lost, so Bremen lifted their first title in 22 years!

Borussia Dortmund replaced Vitesse-bound John Collins with 12-year Dortmund veteran Christoph Metzelder.
 

South Korea

Meanwhile at my former club Busan, the new manager's reign started with a rare loss, but the club went to China and impressively retained the summer's A3 Champions cup with all 3 wins and 9 goals, with Jeon getting an assist and Man of the Match, 2 goals and MOTM, then a hat-trick and MOTM. But superstar striker Alex moved only a month after I did, going to Malaga in La Liga for a £1.1m pittance after 63 goals in 72(11) games.

Despite this, it was a repeat of my last season with the team - They topped the overall league table, beat Incheon in the semis again, then Seoul again in the final to lift the title. They also retained the Champions League and finished 3rd at the Club World Cup.

This year however, with half the 2026 season now gone, they're somehow way down in 9th in the 14-team league. Then again, back-to-back finalists Seoul are 13th!

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Brazil 2026 World Cup Qualifying

UEFA

 

Group 1

Finland - 18
--------------------
Switzerland - 17
--------------------
Serbia - 16
Lithuania - 16
Portugal - 15
Faroe Islands - 1

- Switzerland threw it away in the final minute. Finland had lost in Lithuania, meaning Switzerland's 0-0 draw at home to Serbia would be enough. But a stoppage time corner meant Serbia won 1-0 and the Euro 2024 runner-up qualified instead.

- Serbia failed to qualify for a tournament for the first time in 12 years.


Group 2

Poland - 22
--------------------------
Czech Republic - 21
--------------------------
Israel - 19
Northern Ireland - 14
Azerbaijan - 6
Moldova - 5
 

Group 3

Netherlands - 23
Wales - 22

---------------------
Bulgaria - 17
Sweden - 11
Estonia - 7
Armenia - 2

- A route one goal in the 90th minute in Estonia saw Netherlands top the group and qualify.

- Faith in Frank Rijkaard and Chris Coleman was rewarded as the Netherlands and Wales as best runner-up (despite Bale retiring) qualified automatically, after both sides had failed to qualify for 2022 and Euro 2024 under them.


Group 4

Germany - 20*
-------------------
Ukraine - 20*
-------------------
Hungary - 15
Slovenia - 14
Macedonia -12
Luxembourg - 2
*Head-To-Head: Germany 4 - 1 Ukraine

A crazy group that saw Luxembourg draw 1-1 with Germany ended with Ukraine enjoying an 8-2 win over Slovenia and Germany losing in Macedonia, but the head-to-head record had already decided the placings.


Group 5

Bosnia & Herzegovina - 18*
----------------------------------
Russia - 18*
----------------------------------
Republic of Ireland - 14
France - 14
Albania - 13
San Marino - 2
*H2H: B&H 4 - 4 Russia, GD: B&H +6, Russia +2

Bosnia & Herzegovina qualified for their first ever tournament.

R.o.Ireland's last match saw them lose 4-0 in Albania.

Patrick Colleter's France were a disaster, highlights being drawing in San Marino and losing in Albania.


Group 6

Spain - 22
---------------------
Malta - 17
---------------------
Montenegro - 16
Norway - 12
Greece - 8
Georgia - 4

Stephen Azzopardi's Malta came out of nowhere to finish not bottom, but 2nd and in the playoffs!


Group 7

Italy - 21*
------------------
Romania - 21*
------------------
Denmark - 15
Belarus - 13
Latvia - 13
Andorra - 0
*H2H: Italy 2 - 1 Romania

Andorra now haven't scored in 4 years.


Group 8

Turkey - 24
-----------------
Scotland - 18*
-----------------
Belgium - 18*
Slovakia - 10
Kazakhstan - 9
Liechtenstein - 4
*H2H: Scotland 2 - 1 Belgium

Turkey qualified for their first World Cup in 12 years.

Defending world champions Scotland have to go through the playoffs.

Belgium, after finishing 3rd at the last World Cup, don't even make it.


Group 9

England - 18
---------------
Croatia - 12
---------------
Austria - 11
Cyprus - 6
Iceland - 5

England only conceded 2 goals.


Playoffs (aggregate)

Croatia 1 - 2 Switzerland
Czech Republic 2 - 0 Romania
Malta 1 - 4 Russia
Scotland 3 - 0 Ukraine

Switzerland reach their first tournament since becoming runner-up of Euro 2020, and their first World Cup in 20 years!

Russia reach their first tournament in 14 years, while Malta manager Stephen Azzopardi is a national hero despite a 1-1 home draw being overturned.

========================================================================


CONCACAF

Second Round - Shocks Everywhere

If 4 years ago saw the worst 2-legged result in USA's history (scraping past Nicaragua after two 1-1 draws and penalties), this year saw their worst one result ever. USA lost their first leg 1-0 in... Guyana. GUYANA!

It was a round full of shocks:

- Infamously bad Netherlands Antilles achieved one of footballing's greatest shocks and their best ever result by drawing 1-1 at home to Mexico

- Similarly, Montserrat drew 0-0 at home to Costa Rica

- Belize came from behind with an hour to go to knock out Gold Cup runner-up Canada in Canada

- Turks and Caicos Islands overturned a 2-0 loss to beat Honduras 4-2 on aggregate.

- Nicaragua beat El Salvador twice to go through

- Barbados destroyed Jamaica 6-1 in just the 1st leg to ease through

A lot of people are getting sacked I bet.
 

Third Round

Kyle Lightbourne's Bermuda qualified for the Hexagonal while achieving 2 draws with USA.

Turks & Caicos Islands reached the hallowed Hexagonal after a dramatic final day win over Costa Rica, recovering from 1-0 down to score in the 70th and 88th minute. They've knocked them out in the final minutes for the second campaign in a row!
 

Hexagonal

Turks & Caicos Islands (as of writing, ranked joint BOTTOM in real life and with a population of under 40,000) qualified for their first ever World Cup. And with ease! A huge shock to do so with a few games to spare, but the nation had been gradually improving for a while. The golden generation includes a few players from the Premier League and Real Madrid at peak age.

USA scraped through despite a last-minute loss in Mexico, but it's clear the smaller nations are rising. After failing to qualify for 2014 and 2018 before, it'll get worse if they don't get their act together.
 

Final Group Standings

Mexico - 26
Turks & Caicos Islands - 17
USA - 12*

--------------------------------
Guatemala - 12*
--------------------------------
Anguilla - 10
Bermuda - 7
*GD: USA +4, Guatemala -4

========================================================================


CAF

Zambia, managed by Cagliari legend and former international Sashi Chalwe, reached their first World Cup.

Makan Dembélé's Mali and Nigeria, managed by former international and ex-Man Utd player John Obi Mikel, also qualify.

Angola reached their 2nd ever World Cup after holding Libya, who needed a win, to a 0-0 draw. (In the same group, Stephen Balsom's Malawi threw away a 3-0 lead in Mauritius while Central African Republic scored 3 in the last 10 minutes, 2 stoppage time goals, to win 4-1. It was still Malawi that qualified for the 2nd ever African Cup of Nations thanks to a superior head-to-head record over CAR, but that seems a very... African set of circumstances...)

Morocco qualified easily in a group of death that also contained Confederations Cup winners and back-to-back AFCON champions South Africa.

========================================================================


CONMEBOL

Chile - 28
Argentina - 27
Peru - 25*

------------------
Uruguay - 25*
------------------
Colombia - 23
Bolivia - 21
Ecuador - 21
Paraguay - 13
Venezuela - 11
*GD: Peru +9, Uruguay +1

After 12 years away, and finishing bottom 4 years ago, Chile stormed to the top to qualify for the World Cup, thanks to top scorer and Arsenal striker Hans Sepúlveda's 11 goals in 15 games.

Peru needed to win in Uruguay to leapfrog them, and got a 2-0 win.

A Colombia win would've seen them through, but they lost 2-0 in Paraguay and failed to qualify for the first time in 20 years.

Bolivia's golden generation didn't have a 3rd World Cup in a row in them.

========================================================================


AFC

Second Round

Australia didn't make the final group stage, finishing behind Jordan and Lebanon.

After 5 straight World Cups and on the back of an Olympic gold medal in LA, Iran didn't even make the final group stage, after a disastrous 1-1 draw away to Tajikistan in the penultimate game finished them below Uzbekistan. They sacked the manager and had their pick of former legends to replace him with. They went with the 108-cap Hosain Kaebi.
 

Third Round

Group A

Uzbekistan - 13
South Korea - 8*

--------------------
Iraq - 8*
--------------------
Bahrain - 4
*Head-To-Head: South Korea 5 - 2 Iraq

With a history of close calls, the bridesmaid finally became the bride as Uzbekistan qualified for their first World Cup. After eliminating Iran in the previous round, they topped their group easily with 5 clean sheets in 5 before a meaningless loss in Iraq.
Asian champions Iraq must go through the playoffs.

Group B

UAE - 16
Saudi Arabia - 7

--------------------
Japan - 5
--------------------
Jordan - 3

The United Arab Emirates also provided a huge shock by topping their group unbeaten and reaching their second ever World Cup, having failed to even reach the last qualifying round in 24 years.

An own goal earned Saudi Arabia the draw they needed at home to Japan to beat them to the other spot and condemn them to the playoffs.

Jordan only scored one goal, as the 2018 quarter-finalists failed to qualify for the first time in 3 campaigns, marking the end of their golden generation.
 

Playoff (aggregate)

Iraq 1 - 5 Japan

A sending off just before half-time in the first leg, to their star defender, turned a 1-0 loss to a 4-0 loss for Iraq. That was too much to overcome.

========================================================================


OFC

Playoff (aggregate)

New Zealand 3 - 0 Tahiti

AFC - OFC Playoff (aggregate)

Japan 4 - 3 New Zealand

New Zealand were going through on away goals after a 74th-minute goal, but Japan scored 8 minutes later. Once again the Kiwis were close, yet so far.

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Turks & Caicos Islands qualifying for the World Cup, and Anguilla coming close?! I guess that's FM07 for you, with the British Overseas Territories often getting some good newgens. It's still great, though.

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2025/26 International Recap

Tunisia 2026 Africa Cup of Nations

Tunisia took full advantage of being hosts and beat Ivory Coast 2-0 to become the first host nation to win the competition in 20 years. And they wouldn't have even qualified had they not been hosting!

Angola had a tournament-best performance by finishing 3rd.

After defending champions South Africa were knocked out at the group stage, Neil Tovey stepped down as manager after 8 years that saw them become the first African country to win the Confederations Cup (beating Germany, world champs Scotland and thrashing Brazil 3-0 on the way!), win back-to-back AFCoNs and reach a World Cup quarter-final. He would go on to replace Nemanja Vidic at Scottish giants Hearts. South Africa , meanwhile, hire another former international in his place: Steve Komphela.

Comoros, in only their 2nd AFCoN, held their own by drawing with Algeria, losing 3-2 to Nigeria, and drawing with hosts Tunisia, which meant they finished 3rd in their group, above Algeria.

Malawi's first AFCoN in half a century saw them score against Democratic Republic of Congo, albeit an own goal.


2026 OFC Nations Cup

Kilifi Uele's Tonga, who had only ever qualified for the group stage once way back in 2010, went even further and became the 3rd new runner-up in a row. Danny Halligan's New Zealand beat them relatively easily over 2 legs to win it for the 3rd time in a row.

Despite taking Tahiti to the final 2 years ago, their coach was sacked after failing to reach the main tournament this time.

Solomon Islands failed to qualify for the 6th time in a row, finishing winless and bottom of their group.


2025 European Under-19 Championships

Russia didn't concede a goal against Ukraine, Finland, Italy nor hosts Netherlands twice. They won the tournament after beating the Dutch 3-0.


Brazil 2026 World Cup Group Draw

World champions Scotland and hosts Brazil have been given the easiest draws possible, with **** easy groups meaning they shouldn't meet until the final.

Note: Teams in order of likely finish.

Group A
Scotland - Defending World Cup holders
Chile - First World Cup in 12 years
Russia - First tournament in 14 years
Angola - 2nd ever World Cup (2006)

Group B
Brazil - Hosts
Finland - Euro 2024 runner-up
United Arab Emirates - 2nd ever World Cup (1990)
Turks & Caicos Islands - World Cup debut, population: 40,000 (1/10th of Iceland)

Group C
Poland
Switzerland - First World Cup in 20 years
South Korea
Zambia - World Cup debut

Group D
Wales - First World Cup in 12 years
Czech Republic
Mali
USA

Group E
Germany - Euro 2024 winners
Uruguay
Netherlands - 2 draws v Germany in Euro 2024 qualifying playoffs
Japan

Group F
Italy - 2022 runner-up as hosts, Euro 2024 semi-finalists
Peru
Turkey - First World Cup in 12 years
Uzbekistan - World Cup debut

Group G
England
Nigeria
Saudi Arabia
Bosnia & Herzegovina - Tournament debut

Group H
Mexico - Beat Argentina 1-0 at 2022 World Cup
Morocco - Beat Mexico 1-0 at 2022 World Cup
Argentina - Beat Morocco 2-0 at 2022 World Cup
Spain - Haven't got out of group stage of World Cup in 20 years

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Posted (edited)

Brazil 2026 World Cup

The Official World Cup Theme

This was the best World Cup for ITV and BBC intros!

Favourites

World champions Scotland and hosts Brazil have been given the easiest draws possible, with **** easy groups meaning they may well meet in the final.

The erratic Germany, who won Euro 2024, are just as likely to be a contender as they are to get knocked out at the group stage.

2022 hosts and runner-up Italy have reached at least the quarter-final stage in the past 5 World Cups.

Group A

(In order of likely finish)

Scotland - Defending World Cup holders
Chile - First World Cup in 12 years
Russia - First tournament in 14 years
Angola - 2nd ever World Cup (2006)

Russia 0 - 0 Angola
Both teams were happy with a 0-0. Off to a bad start.

Scotland 4 - 0 Chile
Chile were a mess, making so many horrendous mistakes and gifting goals, as well as getting a man sent off as Scotland made it 2-0.

Scotland 0 - 0 Russia
Russia clung on for another point, but they'll need to beat Chile or they're out.

Chile 1 - 0 Angola
Chile dominated and had a goal disallowed. Angola now have to beat the world champions.

Angola 0 - 2 Scotland
Scotland are through, Angola are out.

Russia 2 - 1 Chile
Chile had a goal correctly disallowed before taking the lead, but Russia got the win they needed thanks to an 87th-minute penalty!

Table

Scotland - 7
Russia - 5

---------------
Chile - 3
Angola - 1

Russia make it out of the group stage for the first time since 1986!

====================================================


Group B

Brazil - Hosts
Finland - Euro 2024 runner-up
United Arab Emirates - 2nd ever World Cup (1990)
Turks & Caicos Islands - World Cup debut, population: 40,000 (1/10th of Iceland)

UAE 2 - 0 T&CI
The Islands' striker was lucky to only get a yellow for an elbow, but it didn't matter.

Finland 0 - 1 Brazil
Brazil also had a goal disallowed as Finland's infamous match-killing tactics didn't work.

T&CI 1 - 1 Finland
Finland took only 32 seconds to score, but T&CI got their first ever World Cup goal to equalise. Both teams now need to win their final game.

Brazil 2 - 1 UAE
Despite going down to 10 men, UAE equalised, but the hosts got an 86th minute winner and are the first team to reach the next round.

T&CI 0 - 2 Brazil
The Islands had several clear cut chances immediately, and 14 shots by the end of the game, but they don't have a top class finisher. They were a man down and losing 2-0 by the 47th minute.

UAE 1 - 2 Finland
Finland nearly threw it away with a mistake in the 87th minute making it 1-1, but they scored the required winner under 2 minutes later!

Table

Brazil - 9
Finland - 4

-------------------------------
United Arab Emirates - 3
Turks & Caicos Islands - 1

T&CI got an historic point, UAE nearly made history themselves.

====================================================


Group C

Poland
Switzerland - First World Cup in 20 years
South Korea
Zambia - World Cup debut

Switzerland 5 - 0 Zambia
3-0 up in 16 minutes, 5-0 up by half-time. A nightmare for the goalkeeper as 5 of 6 Swiss shots on target went straight in.

Poland 2 - 0 S. Korea
2 goals in the first 9 minutes made it easy.

Zambia 0 - 0 Poland
The Poles are kicking themselves after not putting away several clear-cut chances.

S. Korea 2 - 2 Switzerland
South Korea dominated, but 2 mistakes saw them behind with 10 minutes to go... Relief at the end, but they should've won.

S. Korea 1 - 0 Zambia
South Korea needed a big win, but a trademark late winner from Busan striker Jeon Jin-Man was the only goal. Now they had to hope Switzerland thrashed Poland.

Poland 3 - 0 Switzerland
The Poles played both lovely passing football and deadly route one to demolish the Swiss, so both teams still go through.

Table

Poland - 7
Switzerland - 4 (+2 GD)

----------------------------
South Korea - 4 (-1 GD)
Zambia - 1

Poland's weak group means they reach the knockouts for the first time since 1986!

====================================================


Group D

Wales - First World Cup in 12 years
Czech Republic
Mali
USA

Wales 0 - 0 Czech Rep.
The Czechs had a goal disallowed.

Mali 2 - 0 USA
A routine win after getting a 2-0 lead in 16 minutes.

USA 1 -1 Czech Rep.
USA couldn't take advantage of having an extra man and only get a point.

Mali 1 - 0 Wales
A late winner sees Mali through and already confirmed top of the group!

Wales 0 - 0 USA
Wales had the better of the game, but USA missed 2 one-on-one chances in stoppage time. Wales now had to hope the Czechs lost their game.

Czech Rep. 2 - 0 Mali
A last-minute set-piece confirmed the Czech's qualification.

Mali - 6
Czech Republic - 5
-----------------------
Wales - 2 (-1 GD)
USA - 2 (-2 GD)

Mali breeze through to reach the knockouts in only their second World Cup!

====================================================


Group E

Germany - Euro 2024 winners
Uruguay
Netherlands - 2 draws v Germany in Euro 2024 playoffs
Japan

Netherlands 1 - 1 Germany
Germany only took 4 minutes to lead, but a goalkeeping error meant another draw.

Uruguay 0 - 0 Japan
A good performance from Japan, despite 0 shots on target. Uruguay eventually played for the 0-0 too.

Germany 1 - 0 Uruguay
One set-piece was the difference with the keeper beaten to the ball.

Japan 0 - 0 Netherlands
Japan actually had a couple of chances. Despite still having no shots on target, it's another good draw! But now they need to beat Germany.

Germany 2 - 1 Japan
An incredible first half saw Germany take the lead in 14 seconds, then get a man sent off a minute later. However, Germany played an attacking 3-4-3. 13 minutes later, an attempted lob was pushed away, hit the post, and bounced off a Japanese defender for an own goal to make it 2-0. Japan got a goal back 9 minutes later, but Germany regrouped after half time and controlled the rest of the game.

Netherlands 2 - 0 Uruguay
They only needed a draw, but a penalty helped make this a routine win.

Table

Germany - 7
Netherlands - 5

----------------------
Japan - 2
Uruguay - 1

====================================================


Group F

Italy - 2022 runner-up as hosts, Euro 2024 semi-finalists
Peru
Turkey - First World Cup in 12 years
Uzbekistan - World Cup debut

Uzbekistan 2 - 0 Peru
Shock! The Asians get a debut win!

Italy 0 - 0 Turkey

Turkey 1 - 0 Uzbekistan
A penalty is the only thing that separated the two.

Peru 0 - 0 Italy
A drab 0-0 keeps both teams in contention but needing to win their final game to be sure.

Peru 1 - 1 Turkey
Peru fought back from 1-0 down, but it wasn't enough.

Uzbekistan 1 - 1 Italy
Uzbeks stormed the field at the final whistle, while the Italians collapsed! The 10 Uzbeks held on despite losing their lead after losing a player due to injury and having no more subs. What a debut tournament it's turning out to be!

Table

Turkey - 5
Uzbekistan - 4

--------------------
Italy - 3
Peru - 2

This group's the wrong way round!

====================================================


Group G

England
Nigeria
Saudi Arabia
Bosnia & Herzegovina - Tournament debut

B&H 1 - 1 Saudi Arabia

England 2 - 0 Nigeria
A goal at 2 minutes and stoppage time from the two strikers settles things.

Nigeria 1 - 2 B&H
A controversial 80th minute penalty overturned Nigeria's lead and knocked them out of the tournament before the other 2 teams even played.

Saudi Arabia 0 - 1 England
England are through.

B&H 1 - 3 England
B&H were incensed as they went 2-0 behind thanks to penalties at the start of the first and second halves, which were followed by a red card for a two-footed tackle.

Saudi Arabia 0 - 0 Nigeria
It didn't matter though. You wouldn't have thought this was a must-win match. There was a 40-minute gap between kick-off for the second half and the next key highlight.

England - 9
Bosnia & Herzegovina - 4

-------------------------------
Saudi Arabia - 2
Nigeria - 1

====================================================


Group H

Mexico - Beat Argentina 1-0 at 2022 World Cup
Morocco - Beat Mexico 1-0 at 2022 World Cup
Argentina - Beat Morocco 2-0 at 2022 World Cup
Spain - Haven't got out of group stage of World Cup in 20 years

Morocco 2 - 0 Argentina
A 2-0 lead in just 8 minutes gives Morocco a big win.

Mexico 0 - 0 Spain
Spain escape with a point.

Argentina 2 - 1 Mexico

Spain 1 - 1 Morocco
The Africans took the lead in just 2 minutes, but Spain then had the better of the match.

Morocco 2 - 1 Mexico
Morocco should've won by more. They're through, Mexico are out.

Argentina 0 - 1 Spain
A draw would've been enough for Argentina. Spain only scored after the South Americans had a man sent off, and the goal itself was controversial as a player who was offside was battling (interfering with play) for the cross that a teammate scored from.

Morocco - 7
Spain - 5

----------------
Argentina - 3
Mexico - 1

Argentina, the back-to-back 2014 and 2018 winners, have been elimianted at the group stage for the 2nd time in a row now.

====================================================


Round of 16

Will we get Scotland v England in the semis?

Finland 1 - 2 Scotland
3 disallowed goals (2 for Finland, including in stoppage time) made for a breathless game, but Scotland came back from 1-0 down to get revenge for their Euro 2024 semi-final loss.

Mali 0 - 1 Switzerland
A defensive error in stoppage time ends the dream. A team of 4 Diawaras and 4 Keitas is not enough to reach the quarters!

Turkey 1 - 0 Netherlands
It took Turkey 6 minutes to score, their midfielder beating Netherlands' Turkish-born keeper to the ball.

Spain 0 - 0 England AET
Spain win 5-4 on penalties
after 4.5 rounds (1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-3, 5-3)
England were no real threat and couldn't figure out Spain's 4-1-3-1-1 formation. Spain really had the better chances.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Russia 2 - 2 Brazil AET (1-1 FT)
Brazil win 6-7 on penalties after 10 rounds (0-1, 1-2, 1-3, 2-3, 3-3, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 6-7)
One of the most incredible matches in World Cup history!
Russia looked in trouble after they had a man sent off, but only 4 minutes later it was 10 v 10 after a professional foul by the last man!
Russia took the lead from the resulting free-kick, which was cancelled out 3 minutes later!
Brazil led in extra time, only for Russia to score a last-minute equaliser!
Russia went first in the shootout, but missed, eventually going 3-1 down, but Brazil choked twice and it was 3-3 as the shootout went to sudden death! It ended with the goalkeepers having to decide it, with Russia's goalkeeper having his saved and Brazil's finishing the job! The hosts scrape through!
There are not enough exclamation points to convey the drama and excitement of this historic fictional match that no one else cares about!!!

Czech Republic 1 - 1 Poland AET (1-1 FT)
Poland win 5-4 on penalties after 5 rounds (1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 3-4, 4-5)
A harsh late penalty gave Poland a lifeline, which turned into a penalty shootout victory.

Uzbekistan 0 - 0 Germany AET
Uzbekistan win 5-4 on penalties after 6 rounds (1-1, 1-2, 2-3, 3-3, 4-4, 5-4)
Despite missing key players, Uzbekistan successfully killed off the game and stopped the giants ever really being a threat, and then beat the Germans on penalties of all things!

Morocco 1 - 0 Bosnia & Herzegovina
B&H were barely a threat as Morocco dominated.

====================================================


Quarter-Finals

Will it be a final of Brazil v Scotland and hosts v defending champions?

Scotland 0 - 0 Switzerland AET
Scotland win 4-3 on penalties after 4.5 rounds (1-1, 2-2, 3-2, 4-3, 4-3)
Scotland sleepwalked into a penalty shootout, but the world champions' complacency wasn't punished.

Turkey 1 - 1 Spain AET (1-1 FT)
1-4 on pens after 3.5 rounds (0-1, 0-2, 1-3, 1-4)
10-man Turkey took the lead, but Spain made a late comeback. Turkey also lost a striker to injury and his replacement got a knock but had to stay on. Spain stumble through again.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Brazil 1 - 0 Poland
There were no shots on target for OVER AN HOUR, until Brazil scored with the first.

Uzbekistan 2 - 0 Morocco
Their star Arsenal striker scored with a volley outside the area, and a few minutes later doubled the lead from close range. Uzbekistan in the semis!

====================================================


Semi-Finals

Brazil 2 - 1 Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan played so well, cutting open Brazil with sexy passing to make it 2-1. Man Utd striker Santos nearly completed a hat-trick after a Maradona-calibre run.

Scotland 0 - 0 Spain AET
Scotland win 3-1 on penalties after 3.5 rounds (1-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-1)
Spain held on to make it to penalties yet again, but the world champions won't be stopped.

====================================================


3rd-Place Playoff

Uzbekistan 0 - 0 Spain AET
Spain win 1-0 on penalties after 4.5 rounds (0-1, 0-1, 0-1, 0-1, 0-1)
You read that right. The villains of the tournament scraped through one more time, ****ing 1-0 on penalties with 7 in a row missed. The Uzbeks played lovely passing and counter-attacking football again, and they've won everyone's hearts. They feel like the real winners.

====================================================


Brazil 2026 World Cup Final
@ Maracana in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil/Fluminense/Flamengo/Botafogo)

Brazil v Scotland

History

Hosts Brazil have won the World Cup the most times with 6, but last won it way back in 2010 in South Africa. They finished 3rd in 2018 without conceding a goal.

Scotland are the defending world cup winners after their shock win in 2022, notably beating the hosts in the final...

Form

Brazil got 9 points in the group stage, beating Euro 2024 runner-up Finland. The dramatic epic against Russia saw them beat the plucky underdogs on penalties, just, before dealing with Poland and underdogs Uzbekistan with relative ease.

Scotland have only conceded 1 goal. They opened their campaign by thrashing Chile 4-0 before drawing with Russia. They got revenge for their Euro 2024 semi loss against Finland, but couldn't break through Switzerland or Spain and needed penalties after 0-0 draws.

Brazil and Scotland have only met 9 times in their history, last in 1998, and Scotland have never beaten Brazil.

Managers

Reginaldo Alexandre's only previous job was in Brazil's Série C for a couple of years. He has been in charge of Brazil for 5 years. His side were unimpressive as they were knocked out in the round of 16 in the 2022 World Cup, but they then won the 2023 Copa América without conceding a goal, their first trophy in 13 years. The hosts didn't make it out their Confederations Cup group though, only drawing with Poland before being thrashed 3-0 by eventual winners South Africa.

36-year-old Derek Sinclair was faced with the daunting task of his first ever job being in charge of the shock world champions. They kept a clean sheet in 7 of 8 Euro 2024 qualifying games before reaching the semis. World Cup qualifying was tougher and they needed the playoffs to qualify. However, in 2025, his side kept 11 clean sheets and reached the Confederations Cup final (losing on penalties).

Team News

Brazil are missing 3 players, most importantly their attacking midfielder who got a yellow in the semi that ruled him out of his own country's final.

Scotland have a full squad.

Brazil's young Santos and Scotland's veteran Ronnie Allan are joint-top of the scoring charts (with 2 other players) with 4 goals each. It could go down to assists or who gets subbed off first. If neither score, Scotsman Davidson will win it with a goal and an assist, while Brazilian Alexandre would need 2 or 3 goals.

Both teams play a standard 4-4-2.

Brazil: José (Sevilla); Jeferson (Racing), Souza (Atlético Madrid), Almeida (Valencia), Moreira (Chelsea); Silva (Valencia), Batista (Sporting CP), Clóvis (Valencia), Goncalves (Palermo); Alexandre (Lazio), Santos (Man Utd) - 5 La Liga, 2 Premier League, 2 Serie A, 1 Portuguese Primeira Liga, 1 Superliga Argentina

Scotland: Campbell (Recreativo); MacKenzie (Arsenal), Hunter (Sheff Utd), McGregor (Chelsea), Moffat (Motherwell); Brown (Lazio), Wight (Napoli), Harvey (AC Milan), Hegarty (Coventry); Davidson (Sheff Wed), Allan (Real Betis) - 5 Premier League, 3 Serie A, 2 La Liga, 1 SPL

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

First Half

2: Santos is on one of his 1986-Maradona runs and gets fouled by the last man Hunter. Everyone groans as he's unsurprisingly sent off. Scotland have to beat the hosts with 10 men. They change to a 3-4-2.

12: Batista (CM) gets a knock a few minutes later and is surprisingly subbed off for a striker. Striker Santos is moved out of position into central midfield... interesting...

29: Souza trips Davidson in the area. Penalty! And Brown gives 10-man Scotland the lead!

Despite Scotland being down to 10 men and having a lead to protect, they're still attacking and are a threat!

Half Time

Santos and the sub striker swap places, with their top scorer now back up front. They'd been ineffective since that odd decision to move him into midfield.

Scotland's Mackenzie (RB) is substituted for a centre-back, seeing as they're playing a back 3 now.

Second Half

53: Davidson (ST) intercepts a cross-field ball from the RB, dribbles past the defence, and his shot goes in off the far post! The 10 men have doubled the lead! This is why they're champions!

Now with a healthy lead to protect and time ticking away, Scotland change to a 5-2-1-1. Striker Allan is subbed off for an attacking midfielder, right-winger Brown comes off for right wing-back Pressley.

62: Harvey collects a pass, dribbles past the defence and scores! What's happening? Brazil are collapsing! Who would've thought Brazil would put on such a poor display in the business end of a World Cup they're hosting???(!)

73: Alexandre gets on the end of a free-kick to score and keep the game alive.

Another interesting move as Brazil's manager takes off both Santos and the substitute striker and replaces them with a striker and a left-back. Brazil now have 2 left-backs on the pitch.

77: Brazil's substitute left-back crosses in and it falls to Alexandre, but his shot goes straight to the keeper. A bad miss.

80: Brazil make a slight change, pushing their wingers way up for a 4-2-4.

90: The change does nothing, so Brazil go back to 4-4-2. No plan B, then?

Full Time

10-man Scotland decimated Brazil, in Brazil, to become back-to-back world champions. They had 3 shots, all on target, all went in. Brazil, not so much.

This country is delivering one of the most dominant international performances of all time.

Final score

Brazil 1 - 3 Scotland
Scotland Red Card: Hunter (2)
0-3: Brown (pen 29), Davidson (53), Harvey (62)
1-3: Alexandre (73)

===========================================================

2026 World Champions

Scotland

===========================================================

Scotland now have more World Cups than England!

They also become the first team to beat the hosts in back-to-back World Cup finals!

They're the 4th team to successfully defend a World Cup, and the 2nd country in a row to do so (Argentina won in 2014 and 2018).

Awards

Golden Boot: Derek Davidson (ST, Scotland) - 4 goals (2 assists)
Golden Ball: Zengin Yuce (GK, Turkey) - 7.80 average rating in 5 games
Golden Glove: Zengin Yuce (GK, Turkey)
Best Young Player: Mike Stewart (DC, USA) - 19 years old, 7.33 average rating in 3 games
Most Man of the Match: Pablo de la Pena (DC/DM/MC, Spain) - 3 MOTM awards
Most Entertaining Team: Uzbekistan

Team of the Tournament

Yuce (Turkey)
Graf (Switzerland) - Issah (Nigeria) - Caso (Peru) - James (England) - Cummins (England)
Wight (Scotland) - Pablo de la Pena (Spain)
Davidson (Scotland) - Santos (Brazil) - Allan (Scotland)

Records Broken

Highest Average Attendance - 75,045

World Cup Bests

Spain - 3rd (Previous best: QF - 86, 94, 02)
Uzbekistan - 4th (Debut)
Morocco - QF (Round of 16 - 86, 22)
Mali - Round of 16 (Debut)
Bosnia & Herzegovina - Round of 16 (Debut)
Turks & Caicos Islands - Group Stage (Debut)
Zambia - Group Stage (Debut)


Managerial News

Chris Coleman's unpopular reign as Wales manager ended after 6 years. He failed to take them to Euro 2024 after 4 Euros in a row, but did make it to the 2026 World Cup, albeit they didn't score in this tournament.

Frank Rijkaard's tumultuous 7 years in charge of Netherlands ended with his retirement. He took charge of the Euro 2016 winners and they couldn't even score a goal in the next World Cup. They didn't even qualify for the 2022 World Cup nor Euro 2024, but somehow he survived. Former international Maarten Stekelenburg is promoted from the Under-19s to take Rijkaard's place.

After 9 years in charge of Switzerland, Urs Fischer stepped down. Before achieving their equal-best performance in a World Cup, and their first World Cup in 20 years, he had taken them to the Euro 2020 final.

Ubaldino Romitelli resigned as a Finland legend, having taking the team to the Euro 2024 final, beating now-back-to-back world champs Scotland on the way and only being knocked out by them this time around. Former international Petri Pasanen replaces him.

Argentina's manager was sacked after he failed to get the 2014 and 2018 world champions out of the group stage of this tournament and the 2023 Copa América.

Morocco's manager resigned after 13 years that saw the Africans reach an AFCoN final, and the World Cup for the first time since France 98. Not only that, but matching their best ever performance in 2022 then beating it this year.

Russia's manager moved on after taking them to a World Cup and going unbeaten, including a draw with the world champions and an epic draw with hosts Brazil.

Rajko Vidovic resigned after 7 years in charge of Bosnia & Herzegovina. He finally gave the country their first tournament, and they got out the group too!

Chile's manager left by mutual consent. Despite reaching the 2023 Copa América semis and topping qualifying, they were mauled by Scotland, only beat Angola 1-0, then got knocked out by a late Russia goal.

Angola's manager resigned after a great year saw them reach the AFCoN semis and only their 2nd ever World Cup.

Sashi Chalwe resigned as Zambia manager after taking them to their first World Cup and a draw with Poland.

Juan Carlos Chávez was sacked by Mexico after only 1 point.

 


Man Utd Player Watch

 

Santos was Brazil's breakout star. His runs were frightening and majestic, and he nearly got the Golden Boot with 4 goals.

Scotland's Pressley and 2022 Golden Ball winner Preston were squad players, the former getting a few sub appearances and the latter not being used at all in likely his last World Cup.

Castillo was one of Mexico's more reliable performers in defence.

He scored in 4 games in a row at the AFCoN, but problematic record signing Kanu lasted 10 minutes for Nigeria before getting injured yet again. The only way his Man Utd career can be saved will be by putting him on light training, He risks becoming a famous flop.

Striker Boussoufa started all 5 of Morocco's game without standing out. He didn't score.

Winger Topic was played out of position as a CM in a 5-3-2 for Bosnia & Herzegovina, and was subbed off at half-time in all 4 matches. He only made 1 key pass.

Viveros is an incoming left wing-back/winger who I managed as Chile manager a decade ago. He was subbed off in all 3 games, but he did fine and got a goal.

Aleksandrowicz is an incoming young defender and midfielder. He was a sub for Poland and came on in all 5 games, doing his job.

Kirn is a young German centre-back coming in the summer who made his international debut off the bench before the World Cup, but didn't get a game here.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2 minutes ago, CFuller said:

"Braseeeeeeeel..." Oh, wait, where was I? :D

A great World Cup debut for Uzbekistan, but Scotland beating Brazil? Now where have I seen that recently?

Pft, they should come back when they take a 3-0 lead with 10 women in the Maracana!

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Posted (edited)

5-Year Recap: 2021 - 2026

 

See 2006 - 2011 5-year recap here: Link
See 2011- 2016 5-year recap here: Link
See 2016- 2021 5-year recap here: Link

- My Career
- The Bucket List
- Club Football
- International Football
- Notable Managers / Teams


My Career

Valenciennes (France)

No one predicted what came next after we returned to Ligue 1: in my 4th season at the club, newly promoted little Valenciennes topped the Ligue 1 table and stayed there for 3 months over winter, while also reaching a first cup semi in decades.

But the players bottled it and fell to 5th, 1 point away from Champions League football. Still, Valenciennes qualified for Europe for the first time ever! Our debut Europa League campaign saw us even reach the group stage and we were 17 minutes from the knockout stages.

3 months after elimination, I resigned. I'd taken them as far as I could and had been staying for the European adventure. The stress of the FIFA corruption scandal that saw us relegated had taken its toll and I needed a break. I also needed a job with more potential and a competitive budget. I sure found it...

Busan IPark (South Korea)

A rich, major club from a seaside city in South Korea was exactly what I needed. I didn't care about my career, I just needed something I'd enjoy.

While the club had a huge budget (£5m!), I was the highest-profile manager to ever manage in the league and it was my global connections that gave us the edge over other teams. Record signing Alex, a struggling young striker I had at Valenciennes, scored 54 goals in 63(11) games under me.

In my first half-season, we won the title playoffs with a dramatic last-second equaliser and last-minute extra time winner. I was in tears with the elation... and I vowed never to have to go through that again. So next season, we destroyed Seoul 8-0 in the 2nd leg of the playoff final. In fact, we won a unique Simultaneous Double, winning the League Cup while we were out winning the A3 Champions Cup too. We then won the Champions League and FA Cup, meaning we won the Quintuple that season! Only the loss in the Super Cup season opener had cost us a clean sweep.

After 2 years, I got the chance at a dream job and had to leave. I feel like I'll return to Busan and South Korea one day though, either as a manager or just a retired ex-pat.

Manchester United (England)

Things had got stale at United with a ridiculously old squad and even older staff, and I oversaw the greatest overhaul since Sir Alex Ferguson first arrived, which saw Darren Fletcher, John O'Shea and Rene Meulensteen return.

My debut was a 5-0 thrashing of Spurs at Old Trafford, with my new signing Sibiya getting a hat-trick. In the first half of the season we were on fire and were dark horses for the title. By the end of the season, we finished 'bottom of the Big 6' again, missing out on the Champions League by a point thanks to the late half-season stutter.

But we did enjoy a rare win over Liverpool and a first Manchester derby win in 9 matches.

It's just the first year of a long-term plan with a squad still in transition, and we should improve from here...

Trophies/Medals

Busan

2023 trophy: K League 1 title
2023 awards: K League 1 Manager of the Year, FA Cup Best Manager
2024 trophies: Champions League, K League 1, FA Cup, League Cup, A3 Champions Cup
2024 awards: Asian Manager of the Year, K League 1 Manager of the Year, FA Cup Best Manager
2025 trophy: Korean Super Cup


The Bucket List

Win something - 4/5/08 - Serie C2/A title with Varese.

Manage a club in one of the major nations - 13/11/06 - Varese in Italy.

Manage in a large stadium - 17/10/07 - My debut with Tunisia, a deciding World Cup qualifer, was in front of 59,997. But the 100,000-capacity Azadi in Tehran probably won't be beaten.

Manage Iran (my second nationality) - 18/7/10 - Arrived as a promising manager, left a legend.

Manage one of the Home Nations - I'm English, but being stalked and abused by the press isn't everyone's idea of a fun time. I'm 1/8th Irish (like the rest of the world), so I'm including Republic of Ireland.

Manage Manchester United - 28/6/25

Manage Brighton & Hove Albion - My hometown club.

Manage Worthing - My actual hometown club that I don't support because they're so low down that it's impossible to, and they may never be at a level where I could consider managing them.

Manage Barcelona or Real Madrid - Like the England job, but the press are comedically nutty rather than sadistic, and the players are incredible.

Manage an Old Firm club - I prefer Celtic, because green is my favourite colour. Also: 1/8th Irish.

Manage in the MLS - A lower quality of football, thanks partly to David Beckham's L.A. Galaxy deal falling through, but there are worse things than to get paid to do football and live in New York or L.A.

Manage a host nation - A unique challenge

Manage Japan - I like Japan.

Manage in South Korea - 11/6/23 - A law means I can't manage a Japanese club, so South Korea was next best... I took charge of Busan, won everything, and it was the best time of my life.

Manage A Big Sexy International Team - Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, maybe France, Spain or Netherlands.

Manage a stinking rich club - 11/6/23 - Busan's transfer budget was a whopping £5m which made us the Chelsea of Korea.

Get sacked - 20/10/06 - Everyone has to get sacked. I got in early, losing my first job at Salyut-Energia Belgorod in just over 3 months after failing to steer them away from relegation.

Experience an international tournament - Australia 2011 Asian Cup - Achieved with Iran finishing runner-up, their best performance in decades.

Experience a World Cup - Espana '14 - Achieved with Iran. The 4 points and 3 goals in Spain was their best ever performance.

Experience an Olympics - London 2012 - Achieved with Iran U23s, their first appearance ever (and since the 70s for Iran in general, when it was a senior tournament)

Win every continent's international competition - Collecting trophies while experiencing new and unique environments

Gain a famous friend - Frank Rijkaard - Met the La Liga title-streak-winning manager after his Barcelona team asked to play a friendly at Varese

Become a millionaire - The Iran job brought me into 7 figures, and I've had regular work since then.


Club Football

As well as seeing final day title battles featuring none of the traditional big sides, we're now seeing big names get relegated.

In the 'minor' European leagues, it'd be quicker to name which powerhouses HAVEN'T dropped. The biggest name to suffer is Fenerbahce (and next season they get relegated to the 3rd tier!), but others include BATE Borisov, Brondby, Hajduk Split, FC Copenhagen, CSKA Sofia, Maccabi Haifa, Austria Wien, Sturm Graz, Dinamo Minsk and Partizan Belgrade. In the 'major' leagues, Deportivo La Coruna, Leverkusen, Everton and Tottenham are the big ones.

This comes after PSG, Genk, Santos, Sparta Prague, Spartak Moscow, Dinamo Zagreb, Levski Sofia and the 2 Tel-Aviv clubs suffering relegations in the recent past. Rosenborg of Norway even went down to the 3rd tier.

It seems football is trending toward everything being equal and the same where everyone can get relegated or win the title eventually...

Though tell that to Newcastle United, who built on their league titles and first Champions League to become a dominant force. In 2021/22, they won the Premier League with a record equalling 95 points, +60 goal difference, only 1 loss and 17 goals conceded. They've won 2 more leagues and Champions Leagues, but the Treble eludes them despite 3 FA Cup wins in this time.

We also saw teams go all the way down the football league then straight back up. Charlton Athletic achieved 3 promotions in 5 seasons to go from League Two back into the Premier League. Crystal Palace suffered back-to-back relegations to League Two before back-to-back promotions. Sunderland also went to the bottom league and are working their way back up.

Belgium continues to be a hipster's and movie writer's wet dream. A decade after 3 teams finished on equal points for 2 SEASONS IN A ROW, the same happened again... and more! Standard's manager betrayed them by joining Brussels in April... and with tiebreakers equal at the end of the season too this time, the top 2 had a final playoff decider... and it was these 2 teams! The turncoat manager lifted the trophy in the end.

Arsenal reached 5 Champions League finals in the last 10 years and won none of them.

Champions League Winners

2022: AC Milan (9)
2023: Hamburger SV (2)
2024: Newcastle United (2)
2025: Bayern Munich (6)
2026: Newcastle United (3)


International Football

The same trend of big names dropping and small names rising appeared in international football to a shocking degree.

After one of the closest UEFA qualifying campaigns ever, South America's 12-year grip on the World Cup was ended by a UEFA team: Scotland, who hadn't even won a World Cup game since 1990!

Not only that, but they beat the hosts Italy in the final!

Then the Scots repeated Argentina's feat by retaining the trophy 4 years later!

By taking a 3-0 lead against Brazil in the final!

In Brazil!

With only 10 men for the whole match!

Finland, meanwhile, reached the Euro 2024 final, but it was the resurgent Germans that claimed their record-equalling/breaking 3rd/5th Euro trophy.

Meanwhile, Malta beat the Netherlands in the Netherlands.

Asia also saw big names flopping, with Iran and Australia failing to get to the once routine final qualifying stage for 2026.

The Americas was home of the craziest shocks - Montserrat, Nicaragua, Anguilla, Netherlands Antilles, Barbados, Belize and Bermuda giving impressive displays and giantkillings against the huge nations in World Cup qualifiers, but the rise of Turks & Caicos Islands (population: 40,000) was the biggest story. They beat the CONCACAF Gold Cup winners Costa Rica in 2022 qualifying and made the actual World Cup finals in 2026 with ease!


Notable Managers / Teams

Sir Mike Richardson / Scotland - The rookie manager masterminded Scotland's shock World Cup victory in Italy, then desired a step away from the fast lane. He joined Conference side Hereford, Basel and Dundee United all as assistant before accepting a promotion at Dundee United. He was nearly immediately headhunted by Bundesliga side Koln, who he guided way up to a surprise 3rd in his first season. He clearly has talent.

Sir Steve McClaren / Newcastle United - An incredible 14 years in charge of sleeping giants Newcastle United ended with retirement in 2024. After taking England to the Euro 2008 final, he took over a Newcastle side that had yo-yoed up and down the table. They immediately finished 3rd, 4th, 3rd, then two 2nd places in a row, plus two Champions League semi-finals in that time, before finally winning the title in 2016. They only finished outside the top 2 once in his last 11 seasons, winning the title 4 more times, the FA Cup twice and a Club World Cup along with the 2 Champions Leagues. Footballing legend.

David Moyes / Bayern Munich - Moyes has been at the club for 13 years now, winning 9 Bundesliga titles and 2 Champions Leagues.

Pep Guardiola / Real Betis - After establishing Betis as Champions League knockout regulars (reaching the semis in 2022), Pep broke the 2 Madrid clubs' 5-year dominance by picking up Betis' 3rd ever title (6 years after Gordon Strachan won their 2nd) and winning a league and cup double.

Craig Levein / Hearts / Bochum - The Lithuanian Romanov Revolution helped Hearts to their first SPL title in 50 years, but it was under Levein that they reached and stayed at the top. In his decade at the club, they won 5 more titles (with another on the way), 3 FA Cups, a League Cup and became Champions League knockout regulars, reaching 2 quarter-finals. He resigned to take charge of Bochum and took them to 4th in his first full season, their highest ever league position.

Mike Newell / Sheffield Wednesday - After an incredible record with West Brom, he won Wednesday's first major trophy since 1935 with the FA Cup, took them to the Europa League semis, then was sacked months later.

Alfredo Calderón / Bolivia - Took Bolivia to the World Cup not once, but twice, finishing in the round of 16 and then the quarter-finals, only losing to the hosts on penalties. He also took them to the Copa América semis. After he retired, they failed to qualify for the 2026 World Cup.

Esaie Nsangou / Gabon - Gabon's greatest manager retired after taking the unknown African nation to a World Cup, getting a draw against the now world champions, as well as an AFCON semi-final and two consecutive quarter-final appearances.

Patrick Collot / Hamburger SV - Despite failures in Italy, his taking charge of Hamburger SV and guiding them to 3 Bundesliga titles and a Europa League trophy, then the Champions League trophy, cannot be ignored.

Marcelino García Toral / Real Madrid / Newcastle United - Marcelino left Real after 9 titles, including 6 in a row, and achieving a long-awaited La Décima. After Sir Steve retired, Newcastle eventually hired Marcelino. Had he been in charge a month earlier, maybe they would've won the title, but instead they had to make do with a Champions League and FA Cup double.

Yves Colleu / Amiens / PSG - His first job in football lasted over 13 years, as he took Amiens from the 3rd-tier to 3rd in Ligue 1. Their first and only 3 trophies ever were won under him: 1 Coupe de la Ligue and 2 Coupe de France trophies. After a year in the MLS, he returned to PSG and won the top-half club their first league title in 20 years.

Neil Tovey / South Africa - 8 years saw them become the first African country to win the Confederations Cup (beating Germany, world champs Scotland and thrashing Brazil 3-0 on the way!), win back-to-back AFCoNs and reach a World Cup quarter-final.

Uwe Rosler / Germany - Jurgen Klopp won Euro 2012 and came runner-up for 2016, but Germany had failed to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup or get out the group stage of Euro 2020. Rosler not only qualified for the 2022 World Cup, but came 3rd, then won Euro 2024.

Ubaldino Romitelli / Finland - They beat world champions Scotland on the way to the Euro 2024 final, and were only knocked out at the 2026 World Cup by them.

Urs Fischer / Switzerland - Before achieving their equal-best performance in a World Cup, and their first World Cup in 20 years, he had taken them to the Euro 2020 final.

Sergio Bueno / Palermo / Newcastle United - His one-season reigns at Palermo and Newcastle before retirement brought trophies, as the Italians won their first ever Coppa Italia and the Geordies didn't suffer a McClaren hangover at all as they stormed the title by 18 points.

Jose Manuel de la Torre / AC Milan - Replacing Frank Rijkaard in 2014, he immediately broke Inter's 7-year Scudetto streak with back-to-back titles of his own. Next season, they won the Champions League. He's so far won 6 titles, 1 Coppa Italia and 3 Champions League trophies, and they've reached at least the semis of the CL for 5 years now.

Stephen Azzopardi / Malta - Although they beat the Netherlands in 2021, Malta always finished bottom of qualifying. But 3 years into Azzopardi's reign, they finished with 17 points and reached the playoffs.

Denis Sultonov / Uzbekistan - Previously infamous for always just falling at the final hurdle, Uzbekistan hadn't even reached the last group stage of World Cup qualifying for 16 years. But Sultonov's side finished above Iran to make it, then kept a clean sheet in every match until they'd qualified for their World Cup debut. Then they had a dream run to the semis, beating Germany on penalties on the way.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2026/27 Pre-Season - Low Expectations

Pre-Season

Budget and Expectations

With the bank balance in the negative for the first time in years, there's barely a transfer budget this season and the wage bill has to be slashed, but I was always going to sell a few players and I spent £100m last season.

This means the board are aware this is a slow build and a long-term plan, and expectations have tempered a lot. The board are "very pleased" with me and they only expect qualification for Europe this season. So Improvement would be nice, but more of the same please.

The fans still fully back me and are delighted with me bringing back the old Man Utd but, naturally, expect improvement and thus want a proper title challenge this time. We were on the brink of challenging last season, but we didn't take advantage of our games in hand.

Our media prediction is one place lower than last season's prediction: 4th.

What I want is the same as what I wanted last season - get into the top 4 and win the FA Cup and/or Europa League. But this time, I'm more reserved. I'll be happy with 19 0-0 draws away from home. I know we're nowhere near Arsenal and Newcastle's physical specimens, so any points against them would be an improvement, but we should expect points again from everyone else.

============================================


Transfer Activity

Record signing Kanu strained ligaments yet again. I don't want to cut my losses yet, I want him to get a chance in his 2nd season. I'm putting him on a light training programme. If it doesn't get better, he could be gone by January and labelled an infamous flop.

The transfer window opens with 11 players coming in on a free, mostly youngsters and no compensation paid. This includes Jan Krpec, a 21-year-old striker from my former club Valenciennes, who I'd signed before I left. The total value of the free players is over £31.5m.

The first-team signings are:

----------

Juan Pablo Viveros - WB/M/AML - 31, Chile (2 goals in 55 caps), Free Bosman from Torino (Serie A) - Pace 13, Jumping 20, Strength 20, Passing 19, Crossing 16

He played under me when I was Chile manager a decade ago and, as I remember it, was one of the few players who wasn't poor. He's yet to have one bad season in his career.

----------

Bartosz Aleksandrowicz - DR/C, DM, MR/C - 23, Poland (17 caps), Bosman (£3m compensation) from Bayern Munich - Pace 11, Jumping 17, Strength 14, Marking 10, Tackling 20, Passing 19, Crossing 15

He spent 3 years on loan at NAC Breda, where last season he helped knock us out of the Europa League with an assist.

----------

Hamada Abdel Aziz - GK - 22 years old, Egypt (5 caps), Bosman (£275k compensation) from Arab Contractors (Egypt) - Aerial Ability 8, Handling 20, Reflexes 18

Fans are excited for this one. His aerial ability is low, but he's played superbly in Egypt and kept a clean sheet in all 5 of his international games.

----------

Volker Kirn - DC - 24, Germany (1 cap), Free Bosman from AC Milan (Serie A) - Pace 13, Jumping 18, Strength 18, Marking 13, Tackling 20

He actually came from Middlesbrough's youth system and Arsenal bought him, but sold him for £8.5m two years later. He went on loan to Greece, but only played 5 games for Milan before they lost him to us for nothing! He's valued at £2.9m.

----------

There will be no more signings and selling players is difficult. One player had a novel solution: he would only accept a transfer to West Brom if we paid a portion of his wages for the rest of his United contract, which I had to accept.

I sell 5 players for £14m, but £200k in wages is still being taken up by 6 players over 33 whose contracts are expiring.

============================================


Staff

I asked Brian McClair if he'd be willing to return to the assistant manager role to replace the now-retired René Meulensteen, but he revealed he's considering retiring after this season. So Tony Humes, who has been at the club for 6 years as youth coach and general coach, is getting a promotion.

============================================


Friendly Results

2 testimonials and a scenic and hopefully money-making tour of Japan prepared us for the coming season.

(12th, Belgian top tier) Royal Antwerp 1 - 5 Man Utd (6th, EPL)
Antwerp were forced to start a 16-year-old goalkeeper, so all 5 of our shots on target went in.

Miguel Lara Testimonial

173 goals, an FA Cup and 2 Europa Leagues in a decade at Man Utd. The Colombian striker captains the side against Atlético Madrid, his only other European club, though he only played a handful of games. He plays alongside friend Sibiya.

(6th, EPL) Man Utd 2 - 1 Atlético Madrid (3rd, La Liga)
A near-perfect game for Lara, as he could've completed his hat-trick in the first 37 minutes, but he blazed his penalty over. Never mind!

Sasa Andjic Testimonial

The Montenegrin centre-back is an 11-year United veteran with 460 appearances. He plays against his former team and former manager. Way back in 2013, he was one of David Moyes' first signings at Bayern.

Respectful words are exchanged with the legendary Moyes: I say how great he is, he says I'm talented too.

(6th, EPL) Man Utd 1 - 0 Bayern Munich (2nd, Bundesliga)
A last-minute winner from Boussoufa ends the game perfectly.

Japan Tour

Albirex Niigata 1 - 3 Man Utd
Júbilo Iwata 0 - 2 Man Utd
Nagoya Grampus 0 - 3 Man Utd
Shimizu S-Pulse 0 - 2 Man Utd

We don't have a feeder club in big-money areas like Japan yet, so hopefully this will lead to something.

============================================


Premier League Odds And Media Predictions

5/2 - Arsenal, Newcastle Utd
12/1 - Man City
16/1 - Man Utd, Liverpool
20/1 - Chelsea

Compared to last season, our odds are worse, as we were 3rd-favourites at 12/1 then.


Media-predicted final League table

(2025/26 league position in brackets)

1 - Newcastle United (2)
2 - Arsenal (1)
3 - Manchester City (3)
4 - Manchester United (6)
----------------------------------------------------------
5 - Liverpool (4)
----------------------------------------------------------
6 - Chelsea (5)
7 - Middlesbrough (7)
8 - West Ham United (8)
9 - Preston North End (9)
10 - Coventry City (12)
11 - Tottenham Hotspur (10)
12 - Leicester City (13)
13 - Norwich City (11)
14 - Sheffield United (14)
15 - Sheffield Wednesday (15)
16 - Nottingham Forest (6th, Championship)
17 - Leeds United (1st, Championship)
----------------------------------------------------------
18 - West Bromwich Albion (17)
19 - Queens Park Rangers (2nd, Championship)
20 - Blackburn Rovers (16)

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2026 - Champions at Home, Relegated Away

Results

Premier League

(Predicted 18th) West Brom 1 - 1 Man Utd (Predicted 4th)
(Pred. 4th) Man Utd 4 - 1 QPR (Pred. 19th)
(Pred. 4th) Man Utd 1 - 0 Nott'm Forest (Pred. 16th)

Europa League 1st Round, 1st Leg

(6th, RPL) FC Moscow 1 - 1 Man Utd (Pred. 4th, EPL)

Premier League

(Pred. 4th) Man Utd 4 - 1 Sheff Wed (Pred. 15th)
(Pred. 11th) Tottenham 3 - 1 Man Utd (Pred. 4th)

Europa League 1st Round, 2nd Leg

(4th, EPL) Man Utd 0 - 0 FC Moscow (4th, RPL)
1-1 on agg., Man Utd win 1-0 on away goals

Premier League

(6th) Man Utd 2 - 1 Newcastle (7th)
(7th) Leicester 1 - 0 Man Utd (3rd)
(8th) Norwich 2 - 1 Man Utd (4th)

Europa League Group D

(2nd, Czech First League) Slavia Prague 0 - 3 Man Utd (7th, EPL)

Premier League

(9th) Man Utd 0 - 0 Blackburn (17th)

League Cup - 3rd Round

(6th, Ch) Cardiff 3 - 0 Man Utd (8th, EPL)

Premier League

(15th) Leeds 1 - 0 Man Utd (9th)
(10th) Man Utd 1 - 1 Chelsea (2nd)
(13th) Man City 1 - 0 Man Utd (12th)
(14th) Man Utd 1 - 0 Coventry (4th)

Europa League Group D

(11th, EPL) Man Utd 6 - 0 SW Harelbeke (11th, Belgian 2nd tier)
(11th, Bundesliga) Bochum 3 - 2 Man Utd (13th, EPL)

Premier League
(19th) West Ham 1 - 0 Man Utd (13th)
(16th) Man Utd 0 - 0 Liverpool (1st)

Europa League Group D

(15th, EPL) Man Utd 0 - 1 Valencia (8th, La Liga)

Premier League

(13th) Preston 0 - 2 Man Utd (15th)

Home League Form: P8 W5 D3 L0 F13 A4 GD+9 CS4 PTS18
Away League Form: P8 W1 D1 L6 F5 A10 GD-5 CS1 PTS4

=============================================================

Our opening games set the tone.

The season opener away saw an own goal and a missed controversial penalty mean a somewhat disappointing 1 point, not 3. Though I said I would be happy with 19 draws away. Little did we know we would lose our next 6 away league games, including to Leeds and Man City, as well as a 3-0 loss at Championship Cardiff in the League Cup.

 

But our Old Trafford opener saw last season's star striker Sibiya score a hat-trick and new signing Viveros get 2 assists as a left-back and we'd remain unbeaten at home after winning 4-1 twice, as well as a 6-0 win in the Europa League, and a dominant win over mighty Newcastle United.

A leaky defence was our problem, conceding goals in the first minute, if not first 5 or 10 minutes, but there was no sign of why it was going wrong. Goals would just go in yet the defence would all get 7 and 8 ratings. The strikers were also misfiring, the team ending games with only 0-2 shots on target. Sibiya, who in a run of 3 matches had 18 shots (including free-kicks) and 3 on target, the 4 other strikers had only 3 goals in 23 combined matches.

The team's mental state is erratic. My team talks have no effect at all and, despite being Man Utd players, they hated me saying a winnable game was winnable and their team morale went from 'poor' to 'excellent' after losing to Man City.

All this was obvious in the Europa League First Round, when we should've thrown it away. Sub striker Adams was through on goal to score the winner in the 1st leg... and shot so far off-target it went out for a throw...

I warned the players before, during and after the 2nd leg against complacency, and they didn't listen to a single word. What a bunch of twats. Luckily, 9 of Moscow's 10 shots were off-target or we'd be out.

The group stage was less hassle as we qualified with a game to spare, meaning I could play a weakened side in the last match.

Getting used to a tweaked system of play I introduced a few games ago, we finally got our first away league win and clean sheet after 8 games, hitting the post several times and ending with 11 v 10 against a team we lost 4-0 to last season. The signs are good now that we can have a strong finish and get in the top 4 at last.

We also made a big step globally by gaining a feeder club in America. This should bring big merchandising money in.

Record-signing flop Kanu handed in a transfer request. After an injury-plagued debut season, his attitude this season in training has been poor and he's been unhappy. Though no one would want him until the summer, when he would move to the Serie A for just £7.5m, meaning a loss of £22m


Europa League Group D Table

1 - VfL Bochum - 10
2 - Valencia - 9
3 - Manchester United - 6
-------------------------------------
4 - Slavia Prague - 4
5 - SW Harelbeke - 0


Christmas Premier League Table

(All teams played 18 games unless otherwise stated.)

1 - Liverpool - 39
2 - Arsenal - 32*
3 - Middlesbrough - 31
4 - Chelsea - 31*
----------------------------------------------
5 - Leicester City - 30
----------------------------------------------
6 - Coventry City - 30*
7 - Sheffield Wednesday - 26
8 - Tottenham Hotspur - 26
9 - Newcastle United - 25***
10 - Norwich City - 24
11 - West Bromwich Albion - 24
12 - Manchester United - 22**
13 - Manchester City - 22
14 - Blackburn Rovers - 21
15 - Preston North End - 20
16 - Leeds United - 20
17 - West Ham United - 17*
----------------------------------------------
18 - Sheffield United - 11**
19 - Queens Park Rangers - 10*
20 - Nottingham Forest - 7
* 17 games played
** 16
*** 15

Despite the awful (away) form, we're still above City! Newcastle could be doing better despite the games in hand.

The crazy season so far and the fact it's only our away form that's the problem will be why I'm not in an insecure position yet. I always said this was long term, and we can't be afraid of taking a step back to leap forward...

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December to April 2026/27 - Turning It Around (And Facing Vidic)

Results

Premier League

(12th) Man Utd 1 - 0 Middlesbrough (3rd)
(10th) Man Utd 2 - 1 West Brom (12th)
(19th) Sheff Utd 0 - 1 Man Utd (10th)

FA Cup - 3rd Round

(8th, EPL) Man Utd 2 - 0 Swansea (17th, Championship)

Premier League

(8th) Man Utd 1 - 0 Arsenal (3rd)
(20th) Nott'm Forest 2 - 1 Man Utd (7th)
(8th) Man Utd 2 - 1 Leicester (2nd)
(18th) QPR 1 - 2 Man Utd (8th)

FA Cup - 4th Round

(2nd, EPL) Man Utd 1 - 0 Watford (5th, Championship)

Premier League

(9th) Sheff Wed 6 - 4 Man Utd (2nd)
(4th) Man Utd 4 - 0 Tottenham (7th)
(5th) Newcastle Utd 1 - 1 Man Utd (3rd)

Europa League - First Knockout Round

(3rd, EPL) Man Utd 1 - 2 Excelsior (5th, Eredivisie)

FA Cup - 5th Round
(22nd, Championship) Scunthorpe 1 - 3 Man Utd (3rd, EPL)

Europa League - First Knockout Round, 2nd Leg

(5th, Eredivisie) Excelsior 2 - 1 Man Utd (4th, EPL)
4-2 on agg.

Premier League

(4th) Man Utd 2 - 0 Norwich (12th)
(15th) Blackburn 0 - 2 Man Utd (4th)

FA Cup - Quarter-Final

(3rd, PL) Man Utd 2 - 0 Preston (17th, EPL)

Premier League

(4th) Man Utd 1 - 1 Leeds (14th)
(4th) Man Utd 1 - 0 Man City (8th)
(11th) Chelsea 0 - 0 Man Utd (4th)
(6th) Coventry 1 - 1 Man Utd (3rd)
(4th) Man Utd 2 - 0 Sheff Utd (19th)

FA Cup - SF

(6th, PL) Middlesbrough 0 - 0 Man Utd (3rd, PL) AET
5-4 on penalties after 5 rounds (1-1, 2-1, 3-2, 4-3, 5-4)

Premier League

(5th) Arsenal 0 - 2 Man Utd (3rd)

=========================================================

 

Transfer Activity

No one wanted record-signing Kanu and we were stuck with the £29.5m flop until summer.

Despite starting as #1, young keeper Dupraz still wanted to leave and he was eventually dropped and then sold to Valencia for £5m... although with a buy back clause of £6m, and his minimum fee release clause is only £5m anyway. So if he becomes world class, he may return.

I also moved on 5 players around their mid-30s for free to free up the wage bill.

I brought back a familiar face...

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Alexandre - AMC/ST - 32, Brazilian (16 goals in 45 caps), loan from Hamburger SV (Bundesliga) - Pace 12, Jumping 18, Strength 19, Finishing 18, Off The Ball 20, Dribbling 20, Passing 20, Long Shots 20

Alexandre returns to us on loan - he came on loan last January too. Despite his age, he actually looks better than he was last year. His first loan spell was a bit disappointing as he went on a run of 13 shots off-target, but he still scored 3 goals and got an assist in 10(5) league games. He's not a solution to our goalscoring issues, but he's more cover for AMC.

He has pedigree, scoring goals and winning things at AC Milan, Hamburger SV and Brazil, although he didn't make their World Cup squad. Even this season, he has 5 goals and 1 assist in 6(8) games for HSV, including a 10/10 MOTM performance and 2 goals in his last game.

Perhaps he can have fun getting on the end of friend and former HSV teammate Topic's crosses.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

After a period of trouble scoring from open play, I was adamant we'd sign a striker. I tried to sign an English one from relegation-threatened Sheffield United, but they won't accept any offer. A loan for a Brazilian failed, then he went on loan to City...

Eventually we contacted Arsenal, who revealed Michael Laudrup had 2 he was willing to get rid of and we could pick one. I said I'll take both:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Kenny Reilly - ST - 25, Scottish (5 goals in 8 caps), £9.5m from Arsenal - Pace 16, Jumping 16, Strength 15, Finishing 17, Off The Ball 14

Only ever made 5 sub appearances for Arsenal and none at all this season. 2 seasons ago, he was on loan to AA Gent in the Belgian top tier and bagged 18 goals in 30 games. Apparently there's also room for him to improve further and, according to scouts, could become better than our current strikers.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ángel Ramírez - ST - 26, Mexican (1 goal in 6 caps) / Spanish, £10.5m from Arsenal - Pace 15, Jumping 16, Strength 15, Finishing 16, Off The Ball 15

The only club to give Ramírez a run at the top was Valencia, where he got 18 goals in 44(2) games a few years ago. Fans are excited for this transfer even though it's Reilly I wanted more.

=========================================================


Recap

The tactical tweaks worked and we saw a complete turnaround away, and this Big 6 club moved back into the top 6 and all the way up to 2nd at one point. Under our new play, we got into the habit of taking leads then getting someone sent off. I was lauded as a "tactical genius" and winning awards now!

After failing to win away from home for half a season, we were a saved penalty (4 out of 4 missed) away from beating European Champions Newcastle, who were unbeaten at home in the league for 3 years!!

The standout away result was losing 6-4 to Sheffield Wednesday, with keeper Abdel Aziz letting in every shot, causing media backlash to descend on him. I stuck with him for a while, but he was eventually dropped and young English keeper Butler had a second chance.

An embrassing inability to beat Leeds at all this season was tempered by ending City's 10-match unbeaten run even though they had the ball in the back of the net in the final second... but the whistle had blown for a foul.

The FA Cup saw us face former United legends.

Scunthorpe United were managed by Nemanja Vidic, who had won every trophy there was to win (except the Charity Shield...) in his 6 years at United before moving to Italy. They had scored only 1 goal in 7 games, which was a penalty in the last minute of extra time of a replay... so of course they scored in 40 seconds! We won by full time, though.

We reached the semis this time, and it was my first time back at Wembley since historically taking the Iran Under-23s to the London 2012 Olympics.

But just as back then, I didn't see a win. Paul Ince's side killed the game and our bogey team knocked us out on my specialty: penalties.

Despite my adventures in the transfer window, it turns out, it was Santos, already established in the team, and the loanee who went on a great run of goals and assists, while the permanent strikers tried to settle in. In fact, after our season-turning win at Preston before Christmas, it was only this game and the 0-0 at Chelsea that we failed to score in until April.

Alas, this FA Cup exit also saw Alexandre injured for the rest of the season, so his loan was terminated after an awesome 6 goals and 5 assists in 11(5) games.

In the Europa League, United were out at the first knockout round for the 3rd year in a row after losing both legs to a Dutch side. There's a feeling we haven't progressed at all there, as at least we won at home and only lost on away goals last season against a Dutch team...

With a few games to go, we were so close to reaching the Champions League places, maybe even directly into the group stage. Last season, the team choked, struggling for wins and goals, and slid all the way out of the top 4.

But, after a 2-0 win at defending Premier League champions Arsenal, a match we would've lost 4-0 in 2026, this season feels different...

============================================
 

And finally...

As for the overall season itself, it was expected that Newcastle would rise up the table and the surprise teams fall back down as usual. But no...

Instead something incredible was happening...

 

 

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2026/27 Finale, Season Review and Squad Review

Our impressive 2-0 win away to Arsenal combined with Liverpool and Boro only getting draws. So with 4 games to go, the top 5 looks like this:

1 - Newcastle United - 67
2 - Manchester United - 62
3 - Leicester City - 60
4 - Liverpool - 59
---------------------------------
5 - Middlesbrough - 55

Meanwhile, City fans are protesting with the team looking like they won't even qualify for the Europa League and a week later, Slobodan Drapic abandons ship for Sampdoria.

So all is going well, but there's always room for another choke job!

Newcastle are likely to win the title, and we should confirm Champions League football soon, but we need to finish 2nd to get into the group stages.

===================================
 

(2nd) Man Utd 2 - 1 West Ham (14th)

It took only 20 seconds for Ryan (MC) to score, and West Ham were so lucky not to lose 4-0.

They equalised thanks to Kirn (DC) ignoring instructions and choosing to close down the would-be assister rather than keep the eventual goalscorer marked. He still won MOTM.

My substutions worked perfectly. Topic (MR) came on and quickly assisted for january signing and sub Reilly (ST) for a now-once-again trademark late United winner.

3 Games To Go

1 - Newcastle United - 70
2 - Manchester United - 65
3 - Liverpool - 62
4 - Leicester City - 60
-------------------------------------
5 - Arsenal - 57

Newcastle United beat 10-man Man City 2-0 at home. Liverpool got a win, but Leicester couldn't get the job done as they lost 2-0 at home to Arsenal. Bottom club Forest stole a 0-0 draw at Boro with 10 men, making the Champions League look less likely for them at 56 points.

The club picks up awards as Viveros (WB/M/AML) wins Player of the Month with 2 goals and 1 assist in 4 games, Souza (DR/C) is runner-up with an average rating of 7.75, while I win Manager of the Month for a 3rd time this season after 10 points out of 12.

===================================


Next is a huge game against Liverpool. I'm not confident of reaching Newcastle (if only we scored that late penalty against them...), but a win here would not only secure CL qualification, but likely 2nd and group stage qualification, as well as completing our big statement this season of dominance against all our Big 6 rivals.

I change formation to counter their 3-5-2. Castillo (DC) led the rally cries and I've picked players who have been really up for the title chase, and dropped a couple who were nervy, including star striker Sibiya, to the bench.

(3rd) Liverpool 1 - 0 Man Utd (2nd)

Nope, they choked.

On 2 minutes, their player had a long-distance shot that somehow went over/through the keeper, game over. Last ditch defending for the rest of the match meant the ball somehow never crossed their line, then they inexplicably controlled the later stages when they should've been cowering in their own half.

2 Games To Go

1 - Newcastle United - 73
2 - Manchester United - 65 (+20 GD)
3 - Liverpool - 65 (+16 GD)
4 - Arsenal - 60 (+27 GD)
---------------------------------
5 - Leicester City - 60 (+8 GD)

An early penalty was enough for Newcastle to beat Coventry 1-0 away and clinch the title.

In London, Arsenal thrashed midtable Sheffield Wednesday 5-1 while Leicester choked with a 3-0 loss to West Ham to make things interesting.

===================================
 

(2nd) Man Utd 0 - 0 Preston (17th)

The choke job continues.

Despite dominating as normal in the first half, the relegation-threatened side had 7 shots and we had 1. The ball wouldn't go over the line, and for most of the match the team weren't interested in trying to make it do so.

With 1 Game To Go

1 - Newcastle United - 76
2 - Manchester United - 66 (+20 GD)
3 - Liverpool - 65 (+15 GD)
4 - Arsenal - 63 (+28 GD)
---------------------------------
5 - Leicester City - 63 (+9 GD)

Leicester help us by beating Liverpool 1-0 at home with an early penalty. Arsenal beat Spurs 2-1 away.

This means we have effectively secured Champions League qualification after 4 seasons away.

===================================


However, with 3rd and 4th having to go through qualifying, we can still complete our second chokejob in 2 seasons by falling to 3rd or 4th in the final game.

Especially away to ****ing bogey side Middlesbrough, who ruined our final game last season too, and just got their 5th 0-0 in a row.

(6th) Middlesbrough 1 - 0 Man Utd (2nd)

Choke job complete. Well done everyone.

A lifeless cowardly display saw the score 0-0 with 10 minutes to go. With Liverpool thrashing Sheffield Wednesday, we needed to get a winner. Middlesbrough were also sitting back, so I pushed the team forward. Inexplicably, a few minutes later, the defender didn't do his job and left the striker unmarked to embarrassingly waltz into our area and tap it to his partner to score into the open goal and end his 16 hours without a goal.

Arsenal then scored a stoppage time winner against Newcastle to finish above us too. While there's no difference between 3rd and 4th qualification-wise, it rubs further salt into the wound.

Another good season, or at least half season, ending in dismay thanks to Middlesbrough for the 2nd year in a row. Yet if we'd ended with a win but still finished 4th, we'd be celebrating.

Premier League Table

1 - Newcastle United - 76
2 - Liverpool - 68
3 - Arsenal - 66 (+29 GD)
4 - Manchester United - 66 (+19 GD)
----------------------------------------------------------
5 - Leicester City - 64
----------------------------------------------------------
6 - Middlesbrough - 61*
7 - Coventry - 60
8 - Manchester City - 53
9 - Norwich - 51 (+4 GD)
10 - Chelsea - 51 (+2 GD)*
11 - West Bromwich Albion - 51 (0 GD)
12 - Tottenham Hotspur - 50
13 - Sheffield Wednesday - 47
14 - West Ham United - 44*
15 - Leeds United - 40
16 - Preston North End - 38 (-14 GD)
17 - Blackburn Rovers - 38 (-19 GD)
----------------------------------------------------------
18 - Sheffield United - 35
19 - Notthingham Forest - 30 (-20 GD)
20 - Queens Park Rangers - 30 (-29 GD)

*Chelsea, Middlesbrough and West Ham United qualify for the Europa League as Europa League, FA Cup and League Cup winners respectively.
 

Season Review

The season was an improvement.

We rose to 4th, though got the same points and about the same goals (for and against) as last season, but this is in spite of our crazy losing spell away from home up to December, which won't be repeated next season.

After reaching the League Cup semis last season, we made the FA Cup semis this time, though we were knocked out at the first knockout stage of the Europa League for the 3rd season in a row.

We were unbeaten at Old Trafford in the league, only losing a nothing game in the Europa League and then to Excelsior as we were knocked out.

Away from home, we initially drew 1 and then lost 6 in a row, as well as in the League Cup 3-0 to Championship Cardiff. We finally got our first away win in December and only lost 4 more times away.

Paul Ince's Middlesbrough have become our bogey side, beating us in both legs of the League Cup semi-final last season and on penalties in the FA Cup semis this season, as well as ruining the final game of our last 2 seasons. The only team we didn't get at least 4 points off of was Liverpool, who stole an away 0-0 draw and then a lucky 1-0 home win.

The Reserves improved 4 places to 4th, despite last season playing with a lot of still-talented veterans. They didn't have that luxury this season, only using young players.

The Under-18s won their 10th title in a row as well as back-to-back Under-18 Cups. They also matched the Group's record for 'biggest win' with another 6-0 win and 'most games without conceding' with 5.


Tactics

When our awful away form made us look like a relegation-battling team, I changed the tactics around.

When I first arrived, I had to work with what I had and gradually build a squad of physically stronger and better players. So originally, we wanted to keep the ball out of the area and force deadly players onto their weak foot.

But now, with stronger players, we could dictate their attack. Crosses were no longer a threat, so I told my defenders to now force opposing attackers into the flanks. Meanwhile, I brought my wingers into play more to send more crosses in for our more powerful strikers.

That was a turning point. When out of possession, they'd run down the flanks, cross it or win a corner, then we'd clear it away. Then, when we were in possession, we could make the most of our wingers and their top class crossing. And we were drawing so many fouls that we usually ended up playing against 10 men!


Confidence, Reputation & Finances

The board are very pleased with not only qualifying for Europe, but the Champions League. If we reach the group stage, the big money starts coming in.

The fans are delighted with the progress the club has been making.

I'm still the only 'World Class' manager in the game.


Staff

Brian McClair retires after nearly 3 decades in a variety of roles, from youth to coaching to assistant manager, at Man Utd.

Coach Mark Dempsey also retires after 2-3 decades.

After 280 games and 2 Europa League trophies in 8 seasons at United, left-back Farley retires from playing to become fitness and/or tactics coach.

Former players Darren Fletcher and Petar Malinov are made Under-18 and Reserve managers respectively.

Norwich went for 3 of my scouts, but only got 1. I replace him with a scout I had at Young Boys.


Awards

Casey, the left winger out on loan, is runner-up for Young Player of the Year.

Captain Hamann (DL/C) and new signings Viveros (WB/M/AML) and Kirn (DC) are in the Team of the Year (Kirn's a sub).

Kirn and Hamann are also runner-up and 3rd for Footballer of the Year.

Santos' free-kick winner against Man City is runner-up for Goal of the Season.

I'm runner-up for Manager of the Year.

Viveros is runner-up for signing of the season. That's 2 years in a row, after Sibiya got the same last season.

Surprisingly, Reilly (ST), one of the january signings to get us goals, and did so with a vital 2 goals and 2 assists in 3(10) games, was runner-up for 'Worst Signing of the Season'. That's also 2 years in a row I've made allegedly one of the 2 worst signings after Kanu last season, but I'm baffled by this choice... especially as Ramírez, a striker I signed at the same time from the same club, cost a bit more and only played 1(1) games, no goals.

Sibiya (ST) was Man Utd Fan's Player of the Year for the 2nd season in a row.


Squad

GK

1 - Gilles Dupraz - 25 years old, Tunisia (5 caps) / France, sold to Valencia for £5m - Played 13, Conceded 12, Clean Sheets 4, Man of the Match 2, Average Rating 7.23
17 - Hamada Abdel Aziz - 22, Egypt (5), Bosman (£275k compensation) from Arab Contractors (Egypt) - P 30, C 23, CS 16, AvR 7.03
13. Thomas Butler - 23, England (U21), valued at £2.6m -  P 9(1), C 9, CS 4, AvR 6.40

I really wanted to keep Dupraz, but even being first-choice wasn't enough and he still wanted to leave. He went to Valencia and played 7 games, getting 2 clean sheets and a 7.29 average rating. But we have a buy-back clause and his release clause is currently only £5m, so he may one day return.

It was Abdel Aziz who stepped up to become #1 keeper. Butler is a still a future England #1 though.

Chitaia is a slightly older #3 coming in for free in the summer, so our goalkeepers are set.

First Team - Abdel Aziz, Butler
Backup - Chitaia
Out - Dupraz

Defenders

6. Volker Kirn - DC - 25, Germany (4), Bosman from AC Milan (Serie A) - P 35(2), Goals 1, Assists 1, MOTM 2, AvR 7.27
12. Souza - SW, DR/C - 28, Portugal (2 goals in 34 caps) / Brazil, £8m - P 35(2), G 2, MotM 4, AvR 7.19
16. Mohammad Ali Rafiei - DR/C - 30, Iran (24), £3.2m - P 30(5), A 2, MotM 1, AvR 6.91
5. Martin Hamann - DL/C, WBL - 33, Austria (1 in 62), £3.75k - P 32(4), A 1, MotM 5, AvR 7.14
19. Arturo Castillo - DC - 29, Mexico (26), £5.75m - P 18(4), MotM 3, AvR 6.91
2. John Preston - DR/C, WBR - 32, Scotland (49), £1.2m - P 20(6), AvR 6.92
+ Aleksandrowicz, (McIntosh, Viveros)

World class veterans Hamann and Preston were consistent mainstays until February. Preston got injured as his body started to go, while Hamann regularly made mistakes to the point I dropped him for other defenders playing out of position. So they'll both be sold if possible, though Hamann might have 1 more year left.

Although capable of being rocks, Souza and Rafiei are equally capable of errors when marking. We have 2 centre-backs coming in the summer, so they can permanently move to their other right-back position.

We could do with an attacking right wing-back for home matches and when we're chasing a win.

As for left-back, wing-back and winger McIntosh is progressing into the new left-back position, and Viveros can play there 'out of position' as he's a wing-back too.

First Team - Rafiei (DR), Kirn, Souza (DR)
Rotation - Castillo, Hartharson, Padilla
Out - Hamann, Preston

MR

11. Srdjan Topic - ML/R, AML/R - 28, Bosnia & Herzegovina (33), £7.75m - P 25(11), A 6, AvR 6.81
22. Roddy Pressley - WB/M/AMR - 30, Scotland (1 in 27) / England, £5m - P 26(4), G 2, A 4, AvR 6.83
+ Aleksandrowicz

Topic's assist and key pass rates were disappointing.

Pressley was our 'away game option' as he was able to defend too, though he's quite a fouler. He's also not someone to expect a match-winning goal or assist from.

This is our weak area. I could do with both a better attacking and defending right winger. Let's see who's coming in free in the summer.

Rotation - Pressley
Out - Topic

ML

3. Juan Pablo Viveros - WB/M/AML - 32, Chile (2 goals in 55 caps), Bosman from Torino (Serie A) - P 37(2), G 5, A 7, MotM 4, AvR 7.28
7. Steve McIntosh - WB/M/AML - 29, R.o.Ireland (8 in 41), £5.25m - P 26(1), G 1, A 3, MotM 2, AvR 7.30
+ Anderson, Topic

It was a decade ago that Viveros played under me for Chile, but even at 31 years old he was sensational in the Premier League. Him and Kirn proved brilliant free transfers.

McIntosh also enjoyed rampaging up and down the left wing with him. Both could play anywhere from defence to attack and swapped roles without affecting performance. But McIntosh tore his hamstring in February and was greatly missed.

Andy Casey had another good loan at a Premier League club, helping Leicester almost do a Leicester. His average rating was higher this time at 7.00 as he got 2 goals and 5 assists in 33 games. He's still only 21, but next season he'll be a United player.

First Team - McIntosh, Viveros
Backup - Casey

DM/MC

4. Bartosz Aleksandrowicz - DR/C, DM, MR/C - 24, Poland (20 caps), Bosman from Bayern Munich (£3m compensation) - P 38(4), G 2, A 3, AvR 7.12
14. Bob Ryan - MC - 30, England (5), £5.25m - P 17(6), G 2, A 1, AvR 6.96
+ Tsotetsi

Aleksandrowicz was the defensive midfielder we needed, and Ryan even became a more successful tackler and no longer just an attacking choice.

First Team - Aleksandrowicz, Ryan
Rotation - Artime

AMC

15. Anderson - ML/AML/AMC - 32, Brazil (2 in 36), £550k - P 33(12), G 2, A 10, MotM 1, AvR 6.98
24. Tsotetsi - MC/AMC - 23, South Africa (4), £6.25m - P 33(12), G 4, A 8, MotM 1, AvR 7.04
+ Alexandre

Anderson's sensational form earned him an extension to next year, though he probably won't hit these heights in that final season. However, a new signing is coming in the summer.

Unexpectedly, Tsotetsi was no good at MC this season despite establishing himself there last season, but he got a good amount of assist and goals at AMC again. However, he can be quiet and it's time to step up and become even better.

Rotation - Anderson, Artime, Tsotetsi

ST

9. Neil Sibiya - 24, South Africa (9 in 12), £27m - P 34(7), G 20, A 2, MotM 3, AvR 6.90
10. Santos - 26, Brazil (5 in 18), £16.75m - P 32(11), G 16, A 1, MotM 4, AvR 7.02
18. Joe Adams - 31, R.o.Ireland (24 in 46), £6.75m - P 12(15), G 2, A 7, MotM 1, AvR 6.74
29. Eric Kanu - 30, Nigeria (34 in 50) / England, £7.5m - P 4(4), G 1, AvR 6.50
8. Ali Boussoufa - 29, Morocco (18 in 39), joining Hertha BSC (Bundesliga) on a Bosman - P 5(5), G 1, A 2, MotM 2, AvR 6.60
36. Kenny Reilly - 26, Scottish (5 goals in 9 caps), £9.5m from Arsenal - P 3(10), G 2, A 2, AvR 6.69
20. Ángel Ramírez - 27, Mexican (1 goal in 6 caps) / Spanish, £10.5m from Arsenal - P 1(1), AvR 6.50
23. Alexandre - AMC/ST - 33, Brazilian (16 goals in 45 caps), loan from Hamburger SV (Bundesliga) - P 11(5), G 6, A 5, MotM 1, AvR 7.00

If I had never signed Sibiya, United would've been bottom of the table by Christmas, I would've been sacked, and probably we wouldn't be in the Champions League now. He was scoring nearly all the goals as he confirmed his status as one of the world's top young strikers.

After a sensational World Cup for hosts Brazil finishing joint-top scorer, Santos had a slow start. But when the January transfer window came and I looked for a goalscorer, he started banging them in himself.

Adams' strike rate was not good enough, but he still provided assists with his crosses. At his age though, he probably won't have the strength to keep compensating with those assists. Time to go.

It was a make-or-break season for joint-record signing Kanu after an injury plagued debut year when he only scored in the final game, but he only managed 1 goal and not a lot else when given games this season. He then put in a transfer request anyway. When Chelsea balked at his price and wages and no one else signed him, he requested to be removed, but it was refused. He'll be a famous flop.

Needing a goalscorer for the second half of the season, I loaned Alexandre for the second January in a row, and he was sensational this time. It's a shame he'll be 33 next season but he could be a loan option once more...

I had a choice between Ramírez and Reilly from Arsenal in January, and decided I may as well take both. It was Reilly who took advantage and made vital contributions.

First Team - Santos, Sibiya
Rotation - Ramírez, Reilly
Out - Adams, Alexandre (returns from loan), Boussoufa, Kanu

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2026/27 Club Football Review

Biggest Transfers
Andrea Marini (AMC/ST, Italian, 26) - Valencia to Inter - £26m
Giacomo Testa (ST, Italian, 25) - Lazio to AC Milan - £25m
Colin Huckle (DR/L/C, English, 26) - Man City to Arsenal - £23.5m
Adrián Salas (ST, Mexican, 24) - Fiorentina to AC Milan - £20.5m
Juan Toledo (MR, Chilean, 26) - HSV to Arsenal - £20.5m
Eduardo Maldonado (MC, Chilean, 24) - Napoli to Arsenal - £19.5m

Champions League

Marcelino García Toral's Newcastle United retained the Champions League with a 1-0 win over the retiring Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid. It's also their 3rd CL in 4 years, their 4th in 7.

Jelle Goes' FC Groningen were surprise semi-finalists along with Miroslav Dukic's Atlético Madrid, who lost to Real thanks to an early red card.


England

Premier League & FA Cup

It was Michael Laudrup's final season as he announced his retirement from football. After Wenger's trophy-laden era (6 Premier Leagues in a row and 2 Champions Leagues), Arsenal had hired Javier Aguirre, only for him to be sacked a year later for finishing 5th with their lowest points total in 2 decades. Laudrup came in and, after an initial 5th-placed finish, led Arsenal to 5 more league titles and a rare FA Cup, but never got the big European trophy as his side suffered 5 Champions League final defeats in 7 seasons.

2 of the Big 6 had disastrous seasons, while the rest stuttered at various points, allowing bottom-half Leicester to challenge for the title... before they slipped and the Big 2 of Newcastle and Michael Laudrup's Arsenal found their form in the final stretch. Newcastle won by 8 points, but Leicester still achieved their first European campaign in 27 seasons.

Craig Gordon was promoted from youth coach to his first management job at Coventry after Jaime Ordiales retired. He led them to the Europa League quarter-final and back to 7th.

Chelsea's Valter Bonacina left, with the club down in 8th in January, to replace Pep Guardiola at Ionikis in Greece. He was replaced with Roma's Chinese globetrotting manager Zhou Chen. They finished 10th, but beat West Ham in the Europa League final on penalties 1-0 to qualify again.

Sheffield United used to be a yo-yo club, but lasted 11 years in the bottom half of the Premier League this time before finally getting relegated this season.

Paul Ince's Middlesbrough won their first ever FA Cup after beating John Harkes' Norwich on penalties.

Football League & Non-League

After over a century of failing to get elected into the football league, and 20 years of yo-yoing between the National League and National League North a dozen times, Kettering Town achieved back-to-back promotions and their entry into the Football League at last!

The unglamorous Bognor Regis Town made a bit of an impact. The National League side went past 3 fellow NL sides in the FA Cup and only lost 1-0 at Premier League Middlesbrough after a late winner in the 3rd round. They went on to win their first FA Trophy.


Spain

Aidy Boothroyd took over Barcelona at their lowest after they'd finished 14th. 4 seasons later, he's led Barcelona to their first La Liga title in 17 years. Makes you wonder what would've happened if a certain other English manager hadn't gone to South Korea and was thus available for the job...

José Mourinho's career came to an end with disappointment after 2 La Liga titles, as Real Madrid finished outside the top 2 for the first time in 6 seasons. His replacement? Real's first ever American manager: John Harkes.


Italy

2 long-term managers finally moved on.

After 13 years, 3 Champions Leagues, 7 Serie A titles (including this season's), 1 Club World Cup and 1 Coppa Italia, José Manuel de la Torre left AC Milan to take charge of Bayern Munich. Their search for a replacement would be long and end up being one of the most scandalous managerial changes in football...

Marco Di Vaio's first job in management finally ended after 15 years, at the age of 50. After 3 years as assistant at Pisa, he took charge of Serie C2 club AlbinoLeffe in January 2014 and took them all the way to Serie A for a season. But 2.5 years later, he was sacked for being in the bottom half of Serie B.


France

There was nearly a shock on the cards with my former club. After I took Valenciennes to Europe and a brief flirtation with a title challenge, the club were in a good position, and this season they suddenly topped the table after 11 games, and staying there for most of the next few months. Eventually, they finished 2nd, 1 point behind PSG, easily qualifying for their first Champions League.


Netherlands

As well as reaching the Champions League semis, Goes' FC Groningen won their first ever Eredivisie title. After 60 years of Ajax/PSV/Feyenoord dominance, they're the 3rd new winner in 6 years.

Paul Trollope left Ajax after 2 league titles to join Napoli in December. He was replaced with Ionokis manager Pep Guardiola.


Scotland

Gary Naysmith's first job in football ended after over 11 years with Partick Thistle. He couldn't get the club back to the Scottish Championship, making the playoff spots 6 times but only reaching the final once.


South Korea

My former club Busan won the league again, though not the Champions League this time. The manager then left for Villareal and was replaced with a manager who had taken Seoul from the second tier to the FA Cup final and 2 league playoff finals in a row. A sound choice, but Busan only finished 3rd in their Champions League group and sank to BOTTOM of the league at the halfway point of the season...

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2026/27 International Football Review


India 2027 Asian Cup

Qualifying

Malaysia and Thailand both flopped in their preliminary groups, allowing Bhutan and Sri Lanka to advance.

Brunei and Maldives had an epic winner-takes-all battle to get to the next stage, with one of the most dramatic finishes in obscure football history. At 1-1, Brunei won a penalty. The Maldives keeper saved, but the taker was fouled as he went for the rebound. Another penalty! A different player took it and hit the crossbar! Then, in the 86th minute, Maldives made it 2-1. There was 4 minutes of stoppage time for Brunei to save themselves and, at 4 minutes 30 seconds, the keeper even went forward for a last-second throw-in... and from it, a Maldives player scored an own goal. Brunei were through, Maldives out!!

Brunei's adventure didn't end there. They then qualified for their first ever Asian Cup with a game to spare, getting 12 points from Bahrain and Indonesia.

Pakistan make their Asian Cup debut after squeezing in as the best 3rd-placed team.

And history was also made for Guam, who aren't even a country and are an island so small they withdraw from most tournaments. They got their first ever qualifying point to deny Vietnam qualifying in Saudi Arabia's place.

Finals

South Korea won their 5th Asian Cup in the last 7 tournaments after beating Japan 1-0.

Defending champions Iraq showed their last performance wasn't a fluke by finishing 3rd after beating Australia 4-0, Iran 2-0 and Saudi Arabia 3-1.

After a dream run to 4th at the World Cup, Uzbekistan could only match their previous Asian Cup's quarter-final finish. Their manager stepped down afterwards.

Hosain Kaebi's Iran and Serdar Pir's Australia continued to embarrass themselves after not even reaching the final round of 2028 World Cup qualifying. Now, in this Asian Cup, Australia lost 1-0, 2-0 and 4-0 to UAE, China and Iraq in the quarters. They only got out their group thanks to a drawing of lots due to equal goal difference and goals scored, with head-to-head record luckily but inexplicably not being used... Meanwhile, Iran didn't even get out their group; needing to beat Iraq, they instead sleepwalked to a 2-0 loss without a shot on target. Yet both managers remain in charge.

Pakistan's debut highlight was nearly getting a 0-0 draw with South Korea, but the Koreans scored a stoppage time winner on the break.

Hosts India picked up 2 points from Lebanon and Singapore.

Brunei took 42 seconds to score on their Asian Cup debut, but lost 3-2 to Iraq after a heroic display. They failed to score in their other 2 losses to Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Lebanese 130-cap legend Jamal Taha stepped down after 12 years in charge, after a late Singapore equaliser stopped his country getting out the group.


2027 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Guatemala won their 2nd Gold Cup in 3 campaigns by beating Mexico on penalties after an extra time goal each.

USA didn't even make it out of the group stage despite home advantage, drawing 0-0 with Guatemala and losing 1-0 to Panama.


Paraguay 2027 Copa América

Hosts Paraguay reached the semis for the first time since 1983, and then faced Argentina in their first final since winning it in 1979. But Argentina won 1-0 in a hot-tempered game after the hosts had a man sent off, winning their first Copa América in 16 years.

After 5 quarter-finals in a row, Faryd Mondragón's Colombia finally reached a semi, but lost 1-0 AET to the host's penalty.

Mexico manager Ignacio Palou was sacked after a failure to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup was followed by a quarter-final exit in a competition they've reached the semis of in the last 2 occasions.

Uruguay sacked their manager after 1-0 losses to Costa Rica and Ecuador was followed by a 1-1 draw to the hosts.

Despite winning the 2023 Copa América and reaching the 2026 World Cup final as hosts, that wasn't enough to save Brazil's manager from the sack after they finished bottom of their group this year, beneath Venezuela, who they could only draw 1-1 with.

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2027/28 Pre-Season - Transfers, Friendlies and Odds

Transfer Window

The initial transfer budget was only £3.75m.

That was soon increased after record signing flop Eric Kanu finally left for only £7.5m to Fiorentina, a loss of £22m (as well as £7.6m in wages). He only scored 2 goals in 20 games.

33-year-old captain Hamann left for £100k to Roma.

As usual, incoming transfers were mostly bosmans. Youth was a running theme:

Vasil Chitaia - GK - 27 years old, Georgia (27 caps), Bosman from Braga (Portuguese Primeira Liga) - Aerial Ability 11, Handling 17, Reflexes 18
Georgia's #1 arrived to be our #3, though the later signing of another keeper kinda made his signing pointless...

Peter Wallace - GK - 22 years old, England (U21), £1.3m from Sheffield Wednesday (Premier League) - Aerial Ability 18, Handling 12, Reflexes 15
His handling is low, but the scouts were adamant he would be Butler's rival for the England #1 jersey when they both come of age, and last season he did get a 7.17 average rating in his 6 games. As I want Man Utd to remain a club with a strong British group of players, he became a target.

Tómas Hartharson - DC - 25, Iceland (1 goal in 28 caps), Bosman from Valenciennes (Ligue 1) - Pace 17, Jumping 18, Strength 18, Marking 9, Tackling 19
I signed him for Valenciennes 6 years ago and gave him his Ligue 1 debut, and at 20 years old he got a 7.25 average rating that season. He made 179 total appearances, helping them lift their first top trophy with a French League Cup win. Except for 1 season, his average rating was always around 7.25. He also became the key player of his national side.

Jorge Padilla - DC - 24, Ecuador (U21), Bosman from Club Atlético Banfield (Superliga Argentina) - Pace 13, Jumping 19, Strength 20, Marking 15, Tackling 19
This is his big European move, will he adapt?

Christian Giménez - DM/MC - 21, Paraguay (U21), £1.2m from Querétaro (Mexican 2nd tier) - Jumping 15, Strength 19, Tackling 19, Passing 19
In 5 years, we're his 5th permanent club and it's also his first move out of the Americas. He was signed for his potential, but he could do a job in the first team already. He's also apparently one of the best free kick takers around.

Luis Roberto Artime - MC/AMC - 23, Spain (U21), Bosman from PSV (Eredivisie) - Pace 14, Jumping 16, Strength 19, Passing 18, Tackling 19
Has only played a handful of top-level games.

Abdellatif Ouaddou - MR/AMR - 22, Morocco (U21), £375k from KAC Marrakesh (Morocco) - Pace 18, Jumping 15, Strength 14, Crossing 15, Dribbling 19, Passing 16
On the cheap, our scouts hopefully helped fill the right midfield spot.

And a loan. He's back...

Alexandre - AMC/ST - 33, Brazilian (16 goals in 45 caps), loan from Hamburger SV (Bundesliga) - Pace 12, Jumping 18, Strength 19, Finishing 18, Off The Ball 20, Dribbling 20, Passing 20, Long Shots 20
He's aging well (his attibutes haven't changed at all) and he likes the club now, so it makes sense to bring back a guy who scored 6 and made 5 in 11(5) games for us last season.

The window closed with me annoyed by one move. Unable to sell a player, I offered him out on loan. Eventually, on deadline day, we finally arranged a loan... but he refused. We arranged another loan and, with 15 minutes left, confirmed it. Then 15 minutes later, midnight, we're told the transfer will go through in January due to the paperwork not coming through on time... so we're not saving £36k in wages after all and he's forced to rot in the reserves. Wonderful.

==================================================


Friendlies

(11th, Belgian top tier) Royal Antwerp - Man Utd (4th, EPL)

(1st, Serie A) AC Milan 1 - 0 Man Utd (4th, EPL)

(5th, IPL) Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1 - 2 Man Utd (4th, EPL)

MLS All-Stars West 2 - 0 Man Utd

MLS All-Stars East 1 - 1 Man Utd
3 - 4 on penalties after 7 rounds (1-0, 2-0, 3-1, 3-2, 3-3, 3-3, 3-4)

==================================================


Feeder Clubs

Burnley become a feeder club, so we have a good club at a good level to send players out on loan. They've been in the Championship for 27 years and bottom-half for the last 25.

More marketing opportunities and money will come rolling in as, in addition to our American feeder club, we now have a Japanese one: Shimizu S-Pulse.

==================================================


Expectations and Odds

It's exactly the same expectations as last season: the board want European qualification, the fans want a title challenge, and the media are predicting 4th.
 

Media-Predicted Premier League Table

(2026/27 league position in brackets)

1 - Newcastle United (1)
2 - Arsenal (3)
3 - Liverpool (2)
4 - Manchester United (4)
----------------------------------------------------------
5 - Manchester City (8)
----------------------------------------------------------
6 - Middlesbrough (6)
7 - Leicester City (5)
8 - Chelsea (10)
9 - Coventry City (7)
10 - Norwich City (9)
11 - West Ham United (14)
12 - West Bromwich Albion (11)
13 - Sheffield Wednesday (13)
14 - Tottenham Hotspur (12)
15 - Preston North End (16)
16 - Portsmouth (2nd, Championship)
17 - Leeds United (15)
----------------------------------------------------------
18 - Cardiff City (5th, Championship)
19 - Blackburn Rovers (17)
20 - Bolton Wanderers (1st, Championship)
 

Premier League Title Odds

2/1 - Newcastle United
6/1 - Arsenal
12/1 - Liverpool, Manchester United
33/1 - Manchester City, Middlesbrough

So Chelsea, under new manager Zhou Chen, are expected to remain outside the Big 6 (making it a Big 5), while Man City are expected to recover a bit.

Compared to last season, Newcastle aren't joint favourites this time and we have slightly better odds, but still nothing separates us from Liverpool.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Man Utd - 2027/28 - Aug to Mar

Errors Every Game, Champions League Nights and Big Approaches

Domestic

Results

Premier League

(Predicted 9th) Coventry 0 - 0 Man Utd (Predicted 4th)
(Pred. 4th) Man Utd 0 - 0 Arsenal (Pred. 2nd)
(Pred. 11th) West Ham 2 - 0 Man Utd (Pred. 4th)
(Pred. 4th) Man Utd 2 - 0 Norwich (Pred. 10th)
(Pred. 20th) Bolton 1 - 1 Man Utd (Pred. 4th)
(Pred. 4th) Man Utd 1 - 0 Portsmouth (Pred. 16th)
(Pred. 6th) Middlesbrough 1 - 1 Man Utd (Pred. 4th)
(8th) Man Utd 2 - 0 Cardiff (14th)
(7th) West Brom 2 - 2 Man Utd (6th)
(6th) Man Utd 0 - 1 Man City (17th)
(10th) Leicester 1 - 2 Man Utd (8th)
(5th) Man Utd 0 - 0 Tottenham (9th)
(8th) Man Utd 3 - 0 Sheff Wed (7th)
(7th) Liverpool 2 - 0 Man Utd (5th)
(7th) Man Utd 1 - 1 Chelsea (8th)
(18th) Preston 0 - 1 Man Utd (8th)
(15th) Leeds 2 - 0 Man Utd (7th)
(7th) Man Utd 4 - 2 Blackburn (17th)
(3rd) Newcastle Utd 2 - 1 Man Utd (4th)
(7th) Man Utd 0 - 1 Coventry (1st)
(9th) Arsenal 2 - 2 Man Utd (7th)
(7th) Man Utd 6 - 0 West Ham (3rd)
(19th) Norwich 2 - 1 Man Utd (7th)
(8th) Man Utd 2 - 0 Bolton (20th)
(5th) Portsmouth 1 - 1 Man Utd (8th)
(7th) Man Utd 0 - 2 Middlesbrough (15th)
(19th) Cardiff 1 - 1 Man Utd (9th)
(9th) Man City 2 - 1 Man Utd (11th)

FA Cup Results

3rd Round

(7th, PL) Man Utd 4 - 0 Aldershot Town (9th, L1)

4th Round

(2nd, Ch.) Southampton 1 - 4 Man Utd (8th, PL)

5th Round

(6th, L1) Crewe Alexandra 0 - 0 Man Utd (9th, PL)

5th Round Replay

(11th, PL) Man Utd 2 - 0 Crewe (8th, L1)

League Cup Results

3rd Round

(6th, PL) Man Utd 1 - 1 West Ham (5th, PL) AET (1-1 FT)
2-3 on penalties after 5 rounds (0-0, 1-0, 1-1, 2-2, 2-3)


Summary

My season started with a big approach from AC Milan! The Italian champions were willing to more than double my wages and give me a monstrous £133m transfer budget. Had Man Utd not been my club, I might've taken it, but I have to see how my United experience goes. A week later, I read the breaking news of Milan's new manager and raised my eyebrows. "But I only talked to him the other day... Football's gone mad..."

Hilariously, Liaoning from China also had an optimistic try for me.

We failed to score in 5 of our first 6 games, were low on confidence, making errors, conceding early goals, missing sitters and the AMC wasn't delivering the final ball. In fact, errors were a problem throughout the season. It helped the club's reputation for entertainment (there were no 0-0 draws in 2028), but we dropped 20-25 points due to mistakes.

Worse, City beat us at Old Trafford to end our 24-game home unbeaten run with an 86th-minute penalty from only their 2nd attack in the whole game, while Leeds got a 2-0 win at home despite playing for the nilliest-nil 0-0 ever.

Our away form only slightly improved. We were getting some draws, but it was still November until we won one (on the 9th attempt). Preston had 24 shots but somehow lost 1-0.

Our home form slightly worsened. Now teams were getting the 0-0 draws they were looking for. So, with our best chance at goals being the many set-pieces and crosses we were having, I changed my player selection and approach at home. It only took 2 minutes for my newly-selected player to header in a corner in an action-packed 4-2 win where defending was ignored and crosses now went in. We still dropped points, but that result and our annual 6-0 demolition showed that it would work over time.

Coventry and West Ham were surprisingly topping the table by Christmas, while we fought for Champions League places. Newcastle were always going to run away with the league (5 games in hand, unbeaten, highest goal difference, they hadn't even conceded at home yet), but for us it would get worse. Injuries, plus the African Cup of Nations, saw a run of 2 wins in 10 league games as every game had errors and goals were conceded out of nowhere.

The final match of this period was typical: serial mental-case Hartharson scythed down a City player in just 2 minutes to concede a penalty, and in the 91st minute they scored a Goal of the Month rocket to steal another late win.

As we dropped down the table toward potentially our worst league performance in decades, the cups would be the only thing that could save the season. While the youngsters failed to progress in the League Cup, the FA Cup draw was kind. As for Europe, I was happy to be in the group stage.

======================================================================


Champions League

Results

Champions League - 3rd Qualifying Round

(Predicted 4th, EPL) Man Utd 3 - 1 Viking (13th, Eliteserien)
(12th, Eliteserien) Viking 1 - 0 Man Utd (Pred. 4th, EPL)
Man Utd win 2-3 on agg.

Champions League  - Group E

(Pred. 2nd, La Liga) Real Madrid 1 - 0 Man Utd (Pred. 4th, EPL)
(Pred. 4th, EPL) Man Utd 4 - 1 Benfica (Pred. 1st, PPL)
(3rd, Turkish Super Lig) Galatasaray 1 - 1 Man Utd (6th, EPL)
(6th, EPL) Man Utd 3 - 3 Galatasaray (3rd, Turkish Super Lig)
(8th, EPL) Man Utd 2 - 1 Real Madrid (3rd, Spanish La Liga)
(1st, PPL) Benfica 0 - 0 Man Utd (7th, EPL)

Group E Table

1 - Real Madrid - 15
2 - Manchester United - 9
--------------------------------
3 - Benfica - 5
--------------------------------
4 - Galatasaray - 3

Champions League - 1st Knockout Round, 1st Leg

(9th, EPL) Man Utd 3 - 1 Barcelona (1st, La Liga)

Summary

We were made 8/1 5th-favourites (better than the Premier League odds!) but, good God, If just one good chance went in, then a relegation-fighting Norwegian club would've denied us Champions League football.

Shock Norwegian champions Viking were fighting relegation in their defending season, but what should've been a 3-0 home win was a fragile 3-1 due to, yes, an error. Then, in the 2nd leg, THE SAME PLAYER inexplicably and nonchalantly passed AGAIN to his defender, only for the SAME ****ING PLAYER AS LAST TIME to intercept and score. Only 1 of our 11 shots were on target. We scraped through.

In the group stage, we were seeded 2nd but got a tough group: last year's runner-up and Spanish champions Real Madrid, Portuguese champions Benfica and, back in the Champions League after a decade away (and a relegation), friendly Galatasaray. (I was gutted that I wouldn't get to meet ex-Real boss José Mourinho, who retired, nor face my former club Valenciennes for their Champions League debut.)

Errors continued after a respectable 1-0 loss in Madrid. Benfica scored in 4 minutes after... yes... a player inexplicably passed the ball back to their attacker. But star striker Sibiya's hat trick helped get another big European home win.

4 players cost us a win in Galatasaray: 2 mistakes gave them an open goal, while strikers Sibiya and Santos missed 5 big chances (plus a goal was 'offside'). They were so bad I subbed both strikers off and played midfielders up front, and one got the late equaliser!

The home rematch was set to be one of the great Old Trafford European nights. We not only conceded our customary early soft goal in just 1 minute, but were 2-0 down after 19. A half-time team talk later, we got back to 2-2 at 63' and 65'. Young winger Casey scored an 89th-minute header to spark wild celebrations!...Then defender Souza fouled in the penalty area and they scored the penalty...

But we got our moment at home to already-qualified Real. We completely dominated the first half and finally scored, but a marking bug (4th wall broken!) meant an easy Real equaliser. But AMC Tsotetsi broke through in stoppage time for the winner that saw us qualify for the knockouts with a game to spare!

A tough group wasn't so bad after all!

We were drawn against Aidy Boothroyd's Barcelona. It was the same story - a big home win, but our usual mistake left me worried.

It should've been another great night, with Reilly ending his goal drought after just 5 minutes and getting a hat-trick, but 10-man Barcelona left quite happy knowing they can get a 2-0 win at Camp Nou. They could probably get a 4-0 win...

======================================================================


Transfers - Always Buy Better!

The young right-winger I'd given a run in the team had broken his leg in training, so a right-winger or wing-back was now top priority:

- Ivan Hristov - D/WB/MR, D/MC - 26, Bulgarian (18 caps), £8.25m from Coventry (EPL) - Pace 17, Jumping 18, Strength 17, Crossing 19, Passing 16, Dribbling 19

Cup-tied and with our league form bad, he had no direct impact on the season, but his form was sensational - 5 goals and 4 assists in his first 7 games!!

I also got my hands on a wonderkid:

Profile

- Ruggero De Bellis - MC, M/AML, ST - 19, Italian (U21), £10.75m from Roma (Serie A) - Pace 15, Jumping 14, Strength 15, Finishing 18, Composure 17, Off The Ball 13, Crossing 18, Passing 17, Dribbling 16

We were able to beat Arsenal and Bayern tohim. The Roma youth product did well during 2 seasons on loan in Serie B, and this season scored 4 goals and made 1 assist in 4(1) Serie A games as a striker. I wasn't sure if he was ready for the physicality of the Premier League yet, but he won Player of the Month in his first month on loan at midtable Preston.

The board then stole my remaining £9m budget and said I had to sell players to sign anyone else. (A news item said, because of our improving finances, my budget had been increased by £55k... but in reality it changed my budget from £9m to £55k...)

So I had to sell Ryan, who famously scored a curling winner against Liverpool in my first season. To top it off, he'd just provided an assist and was being sold to our bogey side Middlesbrough. But it was to fund a top, top young English defender:

- Richard Friar - DC - 22, English (U21), £6m from Man City (EPL) - Pace 19, Jumping 17, Strength 17, Tackling 20, Marking 16

Despite only a handful of games and loans, scouts said he'd be one of our best defenders today and get even better, and young English players with huge potential are a priority. He's the first player to move between the Manchester clubs since Tomasz Kuszczak joined City on a Bosman in 2017, and the first to move from City to United since Wyn Davies 56 years ago. He got injured after 1 game and re-injured on his return, but still did well in his few games.

Next to go was Iranian defender Rafiei, who was solid backup, but also 31 and had only made 7 starts. Again, it was a pain, but it funded an improvement. One who would make more of an impact:

- Sebastian Muller - DM/MC - 24, German (4 caps), £3.5m from AC Milan (Serie A) - Jumping 17, Strength 18, Tackling 18, Passing 17

Muller is apparently our best central midfielder now and will get even better. He was on loan to Middlesbrough last season, playing 39 games and getting precisely 7.00 average rating.

I bought 2 Arsenal strikers last January with the idea that one would take the chance and the other would fail and get sold. Ramírez was that man as he requested a transfer after failing to make the same impact his rival did, and he went to Valencia for the same price we paid in a quick, smooth, painless transfer.

Less smoothly, I brought back Topic from loan to sell him, only for him to refuse 2 clubs and not get any other offers. So he's stuck here now.

And Adams, the player who was supposed to go on loan on deadline day for the rest of his contract to free up wages, finally got to complete the loan move...

 

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Posted (edited)

Man Utd - 2027/28 - Feb to May

History Made In The Champions League And Premier League... For The Right and Wrong Reasons...

Champions League

Before a recap can be done, there was a key game to watch unfold.

------------------------------------------------------------

Key Game

Champions League - 1st Knockout Round, 2nd Leg

The Story So Far...

After being a goal away from being knocked out by Norwegians, we were drawn in a tough group containing Real Madrid, Benfica and Galatasaray. It was surprisingly routine, only losing away to Real (and beating them at home), but next we were drawn against Aidy Boothroyd's Barcelona.

Reilly scored a hat-trick in the 1st leg in Old Trafford, but we make a crazy mistake every game this season, so the score ended 3-1 not 3-0.

Barcelona only need a 2-0 win at Camp Nou against a team full of errors, with unspectacular away form, currently sitting midtable in the league...

Team News

----------------- Santos --------- Reilly -----------------
--------------------------- Artime ---------------------------
Casey ------------------------------------ Aleksandrowicz
--------------------------- Muller ---------------------------
McIntosh -- Castillo (c) -- Hartharson -- Souza
------------------------ Abdel Aziz ------------------------

Barcelona have a full-strength side, but we don't.

Abdel Aziz has only recently been made goalkeeper, after young Butler showed he's still not reached his potential. Abdel Aziz might not be any better though.

Our first-choice defensive pairing is injured, meaning we're relying on a captain who's transfer listed and his partner who conceded an immediate penalty to help us choke in the Manchester derby a few days earlier.

With Viveros out for the season, the defence and left side picks itself now. There are no other options.

New signing Hristov already got 5 goals and 4 assists in his first 7 games! But he's inelligible, so we have no creativity on the right.

Reilly scored a hat-trick in the 1st leg, while Santos scored against City 3 days ago.

There are 2 reserves/youngsters on the bench as there are no other senior defenders to pick from.

But all this makeshift side needs to do is score and/or not concede 3...

The Match

4: Already an error, as an intercepted pass gives Barcelona a run at goal, but the keeper saves us and the defence scurry the ball away.

12: Error-prone Hartharson makes a last-ditch tackle to stop a 1-on-1 in the area, then stops a certain goal by winning the header from a cross at the near post.

18: Transfer-listed Castillo's poor marking gives their striker a free run at goal, but he shoots over.

25: A perfect ball is played to Santos free in the area, but he hits it hard and skies it when he just needed to place it.

 

26: Muller attemps a quick free-kick with no wall, but it still deflects off a player for a corner.

We dominate most of the rest of the half, yet it's still Barcelona with the more threatening chances.

45+2: Hartharson's pass to Castillo is intercepted (error!) and it's another free run at goal for Barca, but saved for a corner. Souza intercepts the corner but the ball almost goes straight to their attack. Luckily, our keeper smothers it in time.

Half Time: We haven't conceded and had a couple of chances ourselves. But we'll be torn apart if we don't have 11 men on the pitch, so I subsitute both players who have picked up a yellow. That means 18-year-old reserve Smith is playing out of position at left-back, but all I ask of him is to keep his man on the flank and putting in crosses. His aerial ability (20 Jumping) will help too.

50: Only 5 minutes into the 2nd half, Barcelona finally score. What are the odds they score again in a few minutes? The match seems over already...

57: Our keeper's suicidal pass (error!) straight to their striker leads to the ball bouncing around in panic but inevitably going in for 2-0. Now we need to score, but maybe we will as the game opens up and now we have to play our normal game.

58: Nearly 2 minutes later, their keeper is caught way outside his area and Santos is first to the ball to hit it in. Barcelona need to score again to take it to extra time, and they might do that.

60: Hartharson seems beaten by his man, but has the pace to immediately catch up and safely dispossess the striker running through on goal and pass it to the keeper. Uncharacteristically mature.

64: Nice passing gives Santos a clear cut chance to score... but for a last-ditch tackle.

65: Reilly runs into the area but the angle is tough and his shot is saved for a corner.

73: Barcelona somehow hit it wide while inches in front of goal, when all they needed to do was hit it into the near post.

86: Only 4+ minutes away from winning, our keeper is badly beaten from a shot outside the area. Extra time looms.

90: Barcelona lay siege to our goal looking for a late winner, but we clear it all away.

Full Time: It's a reverse of the first leg's result, so now it's extra time. Away goals still count, so if we can score just once, Barca will need to score twice.

Needing fresh energy, I bring on my highest-placed penalty taker (Pressley) for one of the lower-placed ones.

91: Barcelona hit the bar from long range, but we attack from the rebound and Reilly's shot is cleared before it can trickle over the goalline.

93: Barcelona's free-kick is palmed away, and the rebound is excellently saved.

95: Barcelona sky another shot from inside the area.

100: The young makeshift left-back Smith crosses into the box for the new substitute Pressley, who is fouled in the area. Penalty! Huge pressure on Reilly, as a goal now should win the tie... and he confidently hits the back of the net without a problem!

102: Straight from kick-off, Hartharson gains possession... only to effectively lay it off for a Barcelona player who hits it first time... but it just goes over...

 

104: Reilly makes a run into the box to finish the game for sure, but skies it.

Half Time of Extra Time

110: A header, just 5 yards out, from Barcelona's perfectly-placed corner goes over.

117: Pressley goes on a Maradona run only to be fouled before he gets in the box.

120: Reilly gets the ball free in the area, but his tired legs stutter and he loses it.

Full Time of Extra Time: It was too much to ask of even Barcelona to get 2 more goals against a spritely team now playing safe with a 5-man defence and a bit of time-wasting. Man Utd win on away goals!

------------------------------------------------------------

Final Score

(1st, La Liga) Barcelona 3 - 2 Man Utd (11th, EPL) AET
Man Utd win 5-4 on agg.
2-0: (51), (58)
2-1: Santos (59)
3-1: (87)
3-2: Reilly (pen 102)

------------------------------------------------------------

Results

1st Knockout Round

(1st, La Liga) Barcelona 3 - 2 Man Utd (11th, EPL) AET
Man Utd win 5 - 4 on agg.

Quarter-Final

(1st, Bundesliga) Bayern Munich 2 - 1 Man Utd (9th, EPL)
(8th, EPL) Man Utd 3 - 0 Bayern Munich (1st, Bundesliga)
Man Utd win 4 - 2 on agg.

Semi-Final

(3rd, Eredivisie) FC Groningen 0 - 3 Man Utd (9th, EPL)
(9th, EPL) Man Utd 2 - 0 FC Groningen (3rd, Eredivisie)
Man Utd win 5-0 on aggregate

Summary

After an(other) infamous night at the Nou Camp, we lost to 10-man Bayern thanks, yes, to errors. But, after Barcelona, and playing at home with an away goal, we had nothing to fear anymore. A professional performance with NO ERRORS saw us take a 2-0 lead in 11 minutes, Reilly scoring as usual and Muller getting one of many free kick and long-range goals to begin Beckham comparisons.

FC Groningen beat AC Milan on penalties but, thanks to a couple of penalties, were steamrolled 3-0 away before a nervy win at home to set up a surprise final - Panathinaikos beat Real on away goals before a shock victory over the defending champions Newcastle United, so it was a final no one expected: Manchester United v Panathinaikos.

======================================================================


Domestic

Results

Premier League

(11th) Man Utd 4 - 2 West Brom (14th)
(10th) Man Utd 2 - 0 Leicester (8th)
(12th) Tottenham 1 - 0 Man Utd (8th)
(9th) Man Utd 2 - 0 Leeds Utd (17th)
(8th) Man Utd 1 - 0 Liverpool (4th)
(5th) Chelsea 3 - 0 Man Utd (9th)
(9th) Man Utd 1 - 2 Preston (13th)
(18th) Blackburn 1 - 0 Man Utd (9th)
(15th) Sheff Wed 3 - 0 Man Utd (10th)
(10th) Man Utd 1 - 1 Newcastle Utd (1st)

FA Cup

Quarter-Final

(11th, PL) Man Utd 2 - 0 Birmingham (16th, Ch)

Semi-Final @ Wembley Stadium

(8th, PL) Man Utd 2 - 1 Norwich (15th, PL)

Summary

Our form didn't improve, not helped by a major injury crisis. New signing Hristov, who had got 5 goals and 6 assists in 16 games, got injured for the rest of the season, so now both our performing wingers were gone. But worse, we ran out of strikers! With just the loanee striker fit, I had to recall loans and sign a recently released Man City striker for the season.

Newcastle retained the Premier League with 5 games in hand in mid-April as we started dominating teams at home, but 3 losses in a row meant the Champions League was our only real chance of qualifying again. This was confirmed when I controversially played a team of youngsters and reserves against Sheffield Wednesday, unable to afford any more injuries to senior players.

Our final league position of 10th is the lowest since 1990, but that'll all be glossed over with a Champions League win.

A kind draw in the FA Cup meant we reached the semis before we even met a Premier League side. A 92nd-minute winner from that man Reilly, who got the opener too, meant a dominant win and 2 cup finals.

Our FA Cup final opponent would be Newcastle United, the undisputed best team in England and, until now, Europe and the World...


2027/28 Premier League Table

1 - Newcastle United - 82
2 - West Ham United - 68
3 - Coventry City - 65
4 - Arsenal - 61*
--------------------------------------------------------
5 - Chelsea - 58*
6 - Leicester City - 57 (+4 GD)
7 - Liverpool - 57 (+2 GD)
8 - Portsmouth - 56
9 - Tottenham Hotspur - 51
10 - Manchester United - 50*
11 - Manchester City - 49 (-4 GD)
12 - Middlesbrough - 49 (-9 GD)**
13 - Preston North End - 45
14 - Norwich City - 44 (+1 GD)
15 - Sheffield Wednesday - 44 (-14 GD)
16 - West Bromwich Albion - 42**
17 - Blackburn Rovers - 40
--------------------------------------------------------
18 - Leeds United - 39
19 - Cardiff City - 34
20 - Bolton Wanderers - 21

*Man Utd qualify for the Europa League as FA Cup finalists. If they win the Champions League, they will qualify for the CL and Arsenal will enter the EL. Chelsea would still qualify for the EL, as Man Utd's FA cup spot would go to the next league place down anyway.

**Middlesbrough and WBA qualify for the Europa League as Europa League and League Cup winners respectively

It was a random season for many teams.

Both West Ham and Coventry will make their Champions League debuts, Big 2 side Arsenal struggled under their new manager, and Big 6 sides Liverpool, Man City and ourselves finished way down. Even Middlesbrough, who had been knocking on the door with a 6th then 7th placed finished, disappointed.

Dirty Bolton went straight back down after picking up the most yellow cards and an incredible 13 red cards, more than double anyone else.

We still finished above City!

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Man Utd 2027/28 - The Two Finals

FA Cup Final @ Wembley Stadium, London

Manchester United v Newcastle United

Odds, Form and Team News

Spoiler

Odds

Newcastle United - 1/2
Draw - 13/5
Manchester United - 9/2

Road To The Final

The draw was very kind for us. 3 out of 4 ties were home matches, and we didn't face a Premier League team until the semis.

Meanwhile, Newcastle only played Premier League sides.

3rd Round
Man Utd 4 - 0 Aldershot
Portsmouth 0 - 1 Newcastle Utd

4th Round
Southampton 1 - 4 Man Utd
Chelsea 0 - 0 Newcastle Utd
Newcastle 1 - 0 Chelsea

5th Round
Crewe 0 - 0 Man Utd
Man Utd 2 - 0 Crewe
West Brom 0 - 2 Newcastle

Quarter-Finals
Man Utd 2 - 0 Birmingham
Newcastle 2 - 0 Tottenham

Semi-Finals
Man Utd 2 - 1 Norwich
Leicester 1 - 1 Newcastle AET (3-5 pens)

Form

Before the Newcastle draw, we lost 4 league games in a row, though 2 of those were with weakened line-ups.  We haven't won in 11 league games away from home.

Since winning the league, Newcastle have won 2 but then been knocked out of the Champions League by Panathinaikos before losing away to West Brom and Middlesbrough, and only drawing against an experimental side at Old Trafford.

This is a repeat of the 2024 final, which Newcastle won 3-1. In fact Newcastle last lost a final 13 years ago. They've won 7 FA Cup and Champions League finals since then.

Team News

---------------- Reilly -- Krpec ----------------
--------------------- Artime ---------------------
Casey -------------------------- Aleksandrowicz (c)
--------------------- Muller ---------------------
McIntosh -- Padilla -- Kirn -- Souza
------------------ Abdel Aziz ------------------

Most positions pick themselves due to injury and form.

- Although he didn't cover himself in glory in his last match, Abdel Aziz has finally shown what he can do with several important saves and nearly no errors in our run to both finals.

- Padilla isn't in the Champions League squad, so he's picked ahead of January signing Friar, who'll start the Champions League final.

- Pressley got an assist in the Newcastle game 6 days ago, by winning the free kick that Muller scored with, but otherwise wasn't amazing and his last 2 assists have come from substitute appearances.

- After the biggest striker crisis ever, hero Reilly and homer Krpec returned to training at the start of May so are fit, though Krpec needs a bit of sharpness. However, other than loanee Alexandre, they're our only first-choice strikers anyway.

Meanwhile, Marcelino's Premier League champions are only missing 1 player - their right-sided defender/midfielder, who had 10 assists in the league. Their star striker Joao, with 27 league goals this season and only just turned 22 years of age, starts.

Before the game, I play a bit of mind games by targeting their centre-back, and it works.

The Match

Spoiler

First Half

1: Their striker runs at goal and scores from just outside the area.

12: A Newcastle free-kick is cleared straight back to the taker, who just hits it back in again, giving their goalscorer a chance to hit a bullet header from 7 yards out, but it's somehow reaction-saved by our keeper.

18: Goalkeeper Abdel Aziz's clearance outside the area is some lame short lob forward that goes straight to their midfielder, who knocks it forward to their star striker Joao who has enough space and time to round the keeper to score his 35th goal of the season. Error.

19: I tell the players to 'play like it's a home game', pushing them suicidally forward even though Newcastle aren't sitting back. But we don't have the discipline today and they're dominating anyway, so it's time to pressure them.

20: Straight from kick off, we start dominating with our new approach and get a couple of headers off-target.

23: Mega-threat Joao elbows Kirn, which is spotted by the ref... but he only gets a yellow card and stays on the pitch.

33: McIntosh nearly lobs the keeper from afar, before Abdel Aziz makes a top class save to deny Joao's header.

36: There are the familiar United chances, with Reilly running on goal but stopped with a last-ditch tackle, and Muller's long range effort off-target.

Second Half

58: We continue to control most of the game. Centre-back Padilla picks up a knock but, as he's not elligible for the Champions League final, he stays on.

60: Our goal kick is hit back into our half, which Joao chases, avoids the tackle, then chips the keeper into the far corner. He's too good. Newcastle risk dominating for a decade just with Joao up front.

61: I concede defeat and take off Reilly, Krpec and Casey, as they are the players I can least afford to see injured.

69: Newcastle should score a 4th, but the header is off-target.

74: Substitute Alexandre has a one-on-one chance but hits it straight at the keeper. Artime has a decent chance but it goes across goal and wide.

83: Joao goes past Kirn again and runs at goal with a chance to complete a hat-trick, but his shot is saved.

Full-Time

Ultra-dominant Newcastle were big favourites to win the double, so a big loss with Joao scoring was always the most likely outcome. but what's worrying is the mistakes from the goalkeeper again, as well as from our first-choice centre-back Kirn.

The only positive is this doesn't affect the players' confidence. Bizarrely, they're feeling brighter than before the match!

Result

Spoiler

(1st, PL) Newcastle United 3 - 0 Manchester United (10th, PL)
3-0: Montiel (2), Joao (19,61)

Another team meeting, to try and turn things around, has no impact.

Champions League Final @ Stadion Feijenoord / De Kuip (Feyenoord)

Manchester United v Panathinaikos

Odds, Form and Team News

Spoiler

Odds

Man Utd - Evens
Draw - 9/4
Panathinaikos - 9/4

Road To The Final

There was no easy route. Both clubs slayed some behemoths. For us, a famous late win over Real in the groups was followed by an epic night at the Nou Camp before despatching Bayern. Panathinaikos eliminated two of the best teams in Europe, in AC Milan and defending champions Newcastle United.

3rd Qualifying Round (agg.)
Man Utd 3 - 2 Viking

Group Stage

Both teams finished 2nd in their groups.

Real Madrid 0 - 1 Man Utd
Man Utd 4 - 1 Benfica
Galatasaray 1 - 1 Man Utd
Man Utd 3 - 3 Galatasaray
Man Utd 2 - 1 Real Madrid
Benfica 0 - 0 Man Utd
------
Slavia Prague 1 - 0 Panathinaikos
Panathinaikos 0 - 0 Valencia
Panathinaikos 2 - 2 Liverpool
Liverpool 2 - 0 Panathinaikos
Panathinaikos 2 - 0 Slavia Prague
Valencia 1 - 0 Panathinaikos

1st Knockout Round (agg.)
Man Utd 5 - 4 Barcelona AET
Panathinaikos 1 - 0 Real Betis

Quarter-Finals
Man Utd 4 - 2 Bayern Munich
Panathinaikos 2 - 2 Real Madrid

Semi-Finals
Man Utd 5 - 0 FC Groningen
Panathinaikos 1 - 0 Newcastle United

Form

You know our form.

Shock finalists Panathinaikos retained their league title and have rested for 10 days.

Their last and only Champions League final was in 1971. United's last final was 2008, and we're aiming for a 4th trophy after winning in 1968, 1999 and 2007.

Team News

--------------- Reilly -- Krpec ---------------
-------------------- Artime --------------------
Casey -------------------------- Aleksandrowicz (c)
-------------------- Muller --------------------
McIntosh -- Friar -- Kirn -- Souza
----------------- Abdel Aziz -----------------

Only 1 change, which was planned. Friar replaces Padilla, who was picked for the FA Cup as he's not in the Champions League squad.

- Goalkeeper Butler on the bench is an option if there's a penalty shootout.

- In the choice between Artime and Tsotetsi, I start with Artime as Tsotetsi is a better penalty taker, so better to bring him on than keep him on if need be.

- The only other real choice is which young reserve striker to put on the bench. I choose Miguel because he's scored this season and is better in the air, in case Panathinaikos defend a lead or play for penalties by parking the bus.

Panathinaikos are only missing 2 minor players, but are starting with 2 players who aren't match fit or are even tired, including a centre-back, in a game where the temperature will be 28C.

The Match

Spoiler

First Half

0: Panathinaikos' free kick goes into the area and their striker wins the header 6 yards out... but he hits the bar. An immediate scare that makes things nervy.

6: After a couple of United free kicks, Artime passes to Reilly, who goes past his tired marker and places it into the far post. What a player he's been this season.

32: Panathinaikos are forced to take long range shots by our tactics, but their striker gets a run in the area... only for the shot to go straight at our keeper.

34: Reilly is dribbling into the area once more, but a last ditch tackle and clearance immediately leads to a Greek attack, which itself is stopped by a last-ditch tackle in the area by McIntosh.

38: McIntosh hits it forward for Krpec to run onto, while their keeper rushes out of his area. Krpec's touch is blocked and it just squeezes wide. Kirn perfectly gets a header from the resulting corner, but it goes over.

Half Time

With defender Kirn on a yellow, and after he recently got a second yellow just 2 minutes into a second half, I take him off for the more error-prone Hartharson, who I tell to go easy on the tackles for ****'s sake...

Second Half

45: Panathinaikos immediately attack from kick-off, but a good chance doesn't test the keeper.

49: Perfectly demonstrating how we're dictating their attacks, Panathinaikos' long range attempt is blocked, so they try crossing it in, only for it to be easily headered away yet again. This then leads to our own attack, then a throw-in, then a cross to Reilly who has a clear shot from 6 yards... but the keeper makes a magic reaction save.

55: The psycho sweeper-keeper Abdel Aziz headers a backpass outside the area, which bounces behind him to his left for their striker to collect ready to hit into the open goal, but Friar had him marked all the way. He tackles and clears.

59: A beautiful passing move ends with Krpec's shot going straight at the keeper. Panathinaikos' attack sees their striker with a free shot, but he's offside and it goes wide anyway. Seconds later, he gets another great chance that a top striker would finish, but he volleys it over. They don't look like they'll score today.

63: Reilly wins a free-kick from his tired marker in our danger area: the flank. Artime's 'free-cross' is headered by Aleksandrowicz, which takes a deflection, is saved by the keeper, only to rebound off the Greek player marking the post and into the net. A 2-goal cushion at last, thanks to some luck.

70: We get a free kick just outside the area, and once again Muller steps up and curls it into the goal!

"It's Muller de-Light in Rotterdam!!"

That's it, the trophy is ours!

77: Panathinaikos' turn for a deflected free kick, but it goes right next to Abdel Aziz and he has the reactions to catch it.

The 349 Man Utd fans allocated tickets by UEFA are in full voice as the clock counts down to celebration time!

Full Time

Another big win to crown new European champions! (Despite Abdel Aziz's crazy sweeper-keeping all game!)

Result

Spoiler

Manchester United 3 - 0 Panathinaikos
Reilly (7), Own Goal (65), Muller (71)

 

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Man Utd 2027/28 Season and Squad Review

Errors in nearly every game over a season meant a league finish of 10th, the club's lowest in 38 years, since 1990. We only finished that high because we were so dominant at home, getting several large scorelines.

But this was perfect form for the cups, as we reached the FA Cup and Champions League finals, beating Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern on the way. We were the highest scorers in the Champions League with 30 goals in 15 games, almost double anyone else. More incredibly, out of all 73 teams, we were 3rd highest in goals conceded with 15 (and only because we scored 5 past Groningen ourselves to put them at 15 too).

We lost to the behemoth Newcastle 3 - 0 in the FA Cup, but won our Champions League final 3 - 0 ourselves for a shock European trophy in only our first season back and a season ending in joy.


Confidence

Hilariously, the fans are unsatisfied/satisfied. As satisfied as Liverpool in 2005, I suspect! The board are pleased "despite the disappointing Premier League position". Both expected a title challenge.

The board are delighted with the finances too.


Finances

The club are officially 'rich' thanks to our Champions League run, but also the feeder clubs in America and Japan.

We remain the 10th-richest club in the world, but now the 3rd-richest in England, way behind the Big 2 of Newcastle and Arsenal, but top of the 10th-14th block of us, Chelsea, Man City, West Ham and Liverpool.


Tactics

Our normal formation was my usual 4-4-2 diamond.

After making Old Trafford a fortress, teams were now getting 0-0 draws and stealing points by extreme bus-parking. So I tweaked my tactics and, more importantly, selected players who were strong in the air (or set-piece takers), to score from all the crosses and set-pieces we were getting. We immediately profited in the next game with 4 goals, including set-pieces and crosses.

My other problem was teams changing to a 3-3-2-1-1 formation and killing the game. I finally seened to solve it this season by playing man-for-man with a crazy 1-1-2-3-3 formation.

The idea with both changes was to outscore the opposition. We might concede 1 or 2 due to the complete lack of defence, but they're going to sit back even when a goal down, so we have to rack them up while we can. It's only late in the game they'll try to pinch a goal, so we need to be 2 or 3 goals up by then.

Combined with a guaranteed error in every game and the nuttiest sweeper keeper in history, Man Utd made for entertainment.


Reserves and Under-18s

The reserves dropped to 7th in their group, while the under-18s won their 11th league in a row.


Records

August to September saw us match our record for longest run of games without a goal since 1902, with 5.


Awards

Unsurprisingly, most of our accolades came from Europe.

Man Utd Fans' Player of the Year and Champions League hero Reilly won the Golden Boot with 9 goals in 6(5) games.

Left-winger Casey just missed out on the Champions League Best player award by 0.01 points, with a whopping average rating of 7.62, thanks to 6 assists and 2 goals in 12(1) games. It earns him a place on the Dream Team though.

He and Artime got the joint-most assists in the competition.

Sibiya's 2nd of his hat-trick in the 4-1 win over Benfica, a free-kick from the corner of the area curled into the near post, is runner-up for CL goal of the season.

Stripped captain McIntosh did make the Premier League Team of the Year on the left wing.

Unsurprisingly, we're considered the 'biggest underachievers' in the Premier League.


Staff

Coach Petar Malinov, the United player who retired 2 years ago, doesn't have his contract renewed.

--------------------------------------------------------------


Squad Review

There are some huge decisions to make. This is a Champions League-winning team, despite so many injuries, yet it's also an error-ridden side. The type of side that can win cups but is a disaster over a league season.

GK

17 - Hamada Abdel Aziz - 23 years old, Egypt (12 caps) / France, valued at £3m - Played 30, Conceded 32, Clean Sheets 13, Man of the Match 3, Average Rating 6.87
1 - Thomas Butler
- 24, England (U21), £2.9m - P 30, Conc 31, CS 8, MotM 1, AvR 6.83
29 - Mohsen Mahmoudi - 20, Iran (U23), £1.3m - P 3, Conc 2, CS 1, AvR 7.00
21 - Vasil Chitaia - 28, Georgia (22), free (Bosman) from Braga (Portuguese Primeira Liga) - P 0(1), CS 1, AvR 6.00

Abdel Aziz is a psycho. He has low eccentricity, but he constantly rushes out and seems to prefer being outside the area than in it! He's playing sweeper keeper in a universe where the style of Neuer and co. doesn't even exist. This has led to some awful clearances and soft goals, but he turned it around in the last few months with world class saves to help us win the CL. If it wasn't for that and his young age, he'd be gone.

Butler played the exact same amount of games, so it's easy to compare and see Abdel Aziz gave a few more match-winning displays. There's a fear that Butler won't become the future England #1 as expected and Abdel Aziz has usurped him. I hope to send him out on loan. It could be years before he comes good, if ever.

Mahmoudi is definitely a future Iran #1.

Chitaia was brought in as older experience, but we have so many young keepers now, and he's not that good, I may as well use someone else.

Another young English keeper, Wallace, went on loan at Championship Burnley with a 6.79 rating.

Yet another young keeper is coming from Barcelona, so competition is fierce.

(Next season's roles)
Rotation - Abdel Aziz, Wallace, Butler + 1 incoming transfer
Backup - Mahmoudi
Out - Chitaia

Abdel Aziz will start the season but, if those errors return, the new signing will get a chance. And if he disappoints, there are 3 more to try. But I can't afford another season of mistakes making us struggle in the league, so a top ready-made goalkeeper could become a priority transfer.
 

DR

12. Souza - DR/C - 29, Portugal (3 goals in 40 caps) / Brazil, £5.25m - P 43(7), Goals 1, Assists 5, AvR 7.00
16. Mohammad Ali Rafiei - DR/C - 31, Iran (29), sold for £2m to Werder Bremen (Bundesliga) - P 7(5), G 1, AvR 6.83
+ Aleksandrowicz, Hristov

I had to sell Rafiei so I could sign Muller (DM/MC) on January 31st, but it was a choice that improved our season.

First Team - Souza + 1 incoming transfer
Backup - Aleksandrowicz, Hristov
Out - Rafiei
Work Permit - Caicedo

This position seems fine for next season.


DL

+ McIntosh, Viveros

Neither player naturally played left-back, but do play wing-back. Viveros made a few costly errors, so it became McIntosh's spot. When he was out, I simply picked a centre-back without issue.

First Team - McIntosh
Backup - Viveros

Work Permit - Caicedo

If we can get a work permit for Caicedo next season, he can be our other DL. If not, I'll just use centre-backs for backup.


DC

6. Volker Kirn - 26, Germany (7), £5.25m - P 30(3), MotM 3, AvR 7.09
19. Arturo Castillo - 29, Mexico (35), £4.4m - P 25(1), AvR 6.96
5. Tómas Hartharson - 26, Iceland (1 in 33), £4.8m - P 30(9), AvR 7.05
2. Jorge Padilla - 25, Ecuador (7), free (Bosman) from Banfield (Argentine Premier Division) - P 25(2), MotM 4, AvR 7.19
14. Richard Friar - 23, England (U21), bought for £6m from Man City - P 6(1), MotM 1, AvR 7.29
+ Aleksandrowicz, Rafiei, Souza

Castillo was the experienced head, but even he made errors, which pushed him down the pecking order. He requested a transfer and would only be pushed further down if he stayed next season, so should be going.

Hartharson is talented, but you can also expect him to get booked or give away a penalty, so hasn't established himself as first-choice.

Padilla was supposed to be backup, but he performed well and seemed less error-prone, so earned more starts.

Friar was signed in January to help halt our errors, but he got injured after just a week of games, then got sent off on his return. But his future should be much brighter than his start.

First Team - Friar, Kirn
Rotation - Hartharson, Padilla, Souza
+ 3 new signings incoming
Backup - Aleksandrowicz
Out - Castillo

With 3 signings joining, everyone (except probably Friar and Kirn) will have to cut out mistakes and really step up to the next level or risk being frozen out.


MR

22. Roddy Pressley - WB/M/AMR - 31, Scotland (1 in 31) / England, N/A - P 22(14), G 1, A 4, AvR 6.89
8. Abdellatif Ouaddou - 22, Morocco (1), bought for £375k from KAC Marrakech (Morocco) - P 15(6), A 2, AvR 6.76
36. Ivan Hristov - D/WB/MR, DM/MC - 27, Bulgaria (18), bought for £8.25m from Coventry - P 16, G 5, A 6, MotM, AvR 7.44
37. Srdjan Topic - M/AMR, M/AML - 29, Bosnia & Herzegovina (37), £5.75m - P 2, AvR 7.00
+ Aleksandrowicz

Pressley wasn't creating goals and defensively he was a fouler. His contract expires in the summer but then, just in time, he popped up with vital assists. He seems to be an impactful sub, so he'll be offered a new contract and that will be his role next season.

It was too early for Ouaddou, and then broke his leg, making a new signing even more important. He'll go out on loan if possible when he returns.

Needing a creator on the right in January, I went for Hristov, despite him not even being a regular for Coventry. His record speaks for itself. Had he not got injured, we may have won another cup, and we'd certainly be higher up the table. He was the missing piece of the attacking jigsaw and his offensive and defensive ability is a big step to closing the Newcastle gap.

Topic was out on loan at former club HSV but was recalled in January so we could raise funds by selling him. But he refused 2 big Dutch clubs and we were stuck with him!

First Team - Hristov
Backup - Aleksandrowicz, Pressley
Moved to Reserves - Ouaddou
Out - Pressley (if contract expires), Topic

If Hristov gets injured again, there's no one to create goals, so I should probably get another right-winger.


ML

11. Andy Casey - 22, England (U21), £7.25m - P 36(11), G 4, A 9, MotM 3, AvR 7.13
7. Steve McIntosh - WB/M/AML - 30, Republic of Ireland (9 in 47), £5m - P 42(2), A 4, MotM 2, AvR 7.05
3. Juan Pablo Viveros - WB/M/AML - 33, Chile (3 in 66), £2.2m - P 18(5), G 2, A 3, MotM 1, Avr 6.91
15. Anderson - M/AML, AMC - 33, Brazil (2 in 36), N/A - P 19(9), G 2, A 7, MotM 1, AvR 6.71

After 2 seasons on loan in the Premier League, getting 3rd then 2nd for Premier League Young Player of the Year, this was Casey's breakthrough season. It was in the Champions League where he performed best. with 2 goals and 6 assists in 12(1) games.

McIntosh playing 'out of position' as a left-back meant he didn't make many goals. He was stripped of his captaincy after his error at home to City cost us dearly and his standing amongst his peers fell a little.

Viveros may not even be fit for the start of his final contracted season after breaking his leg.

Anderson was clearly in his last season and was backup, but when I changed our home game approach, he earned a starting spot for Old Trafford matches simply as the set piece taker. We'd get a lot of corners, and he was a top taker, hence that high assist rate.

First Team - Casey, McIntosh
Rotation - Viveros
Out - Anderson

Casey should be the future, but we also have a wonderkid who can play there and has done well on the left for Preston on loan this season if we need him.


DM/MC

4. Bartosz Aleksandrowicz - D/MR, DC, DM/MC - 25, Poland (26), £5.75m - P 51(3), G 1, A 6, MotM 2, AvR 7.09
16. Sebastian Muller - 25, Germany (4), bought for £3.5m from AC Milan (Serie A) - P 19(1), G 6, A 2, MotM 2, AvR 7.10
27. Bob Ryan - 31, England (8), sold for £3.5m to Middlesbrough - P 11(2), A 2, AvR 6.69
+ Artime, Hristov, Tsotetsi

Although Aleksandrowicz is primarily a central midfielder and definitely not a rampaging winger who makes goals, the man who helped knock us out the Europa League 2 years ago was our man on the right keeping things ticking to help us lift the Champions League.

Muller earned admiration after he came in January. He earned himself the spot as our free kick taker after he wouldn't stop scoring them all the way to our final goal of the season. There were flashbacks to David Beckham - a free kick in the right position was a certain goal. But he was no one-trick pony, with even the commentators effusing about how he was running things in the middle.

Ryan was popular. Not stellar, but had his moments, like the long-range winner against Liverpool in my first season. But he had to be sold to fund the purchase of Friar, which turned out to be another wise decision.

First Team - Aleksandrowicz, Muller
Rotation - Artime
Backup - Hristov, Tsotetsi
Out - Ryan

With Muller and Aleksandrowicz, we should be set for the next 5 years, never mind the youngsters coming through.


AMC

13. Luis Roberto Artime - MC/AMC - 23, Spain (U21), free bosman from PSV (Eredivisie) - P 43(9), G 3, A 11, AvR 6.77
24. Reginald Tsotetsi - MC/AMC - 23, South Africa (9), £6.5m - P 16(20), G 2, A 4, AvR 6.69
+ Alexandre

Artime edged Tsotetsi as first choice in most games due to his defensive ability.

With a change in our home game approach, Alexandre became our AMC starter as effectively a 3rd striker.

First Team - Artime, Tsotetsi
Loan Ended - Alexandre

As with central midfield, this position seems set for years to come.


ST

18. Kenny Reilly - 26, Scotland (6 in 11), £10m - P 27(13), G 19, A 3, MotM 4, AvR 7.13
9. Neil Sibiya - 24, South Africa (21 in 19), £26.5m - P 29(5), G 13, A 4, MotM 1, AvR 6.79
10. Santos - 26, Brazil (6 in 22), £19.25m - P 31(9), G 13, A 2, MotM 2, AvR 6.85
27. Jan Krpec - 23, Czech Republic (1), £5.75m - P 14(9), G 9, A 3, MotM 3, AvR 6.78
25. Ángel Ramírez - 27, Mexico (1 in 8) / Spain, sold for £10.5m to Valencia (La Liga) - P 2(2), AvR 6.25
23. Alexandre - AMC/ST - 33, Brazil (16 in 45), loaned from HSV (Bundesliga) - P 21(18), G 6, A 5, MotM 1, AvR 6.77
39. Fabrice Pelletier - 30, France (4 in 16), free transfer - P 0(1), AvR 7.00

Reilly's first full season saw him become a Man Utd hero, particularly in the Champions League knockout stages where he scored a hat trick against Barcelona at Old Trafford, scored the winning extra time penalty in the 2nd leg, scored 2 to eliminate Bayern, then 2 more in the semis. He was at his peak when he got injured, scoring 7 goals in his past 5 games, but he returned in time to open the scoring in the Champions League final and win the free kick for the 2nd goal.

Meanwhile Ramírez, who signed at the same time as my gut-instinct move for Reilly, both from Arsenal, went the other way. He failed again to establish himself, got an attitude, and was sold for the same price we bought him.

Krpec established himself as our 'home striker'. Although picked for his aerial ability, he would also score with his feet.

It was Alexandre's 3rd year on loan with us, for the whole season this time. He started strong, especially as a home attacker, but tailed off in the second half of the season and became backup as he missed chances.

An injury crisis in the final 2 months left us with only Alexandre as a first team striker, so out-of-contract Pelletier was signed on a short contract.

Youngsters Miguel and Hulshoff returned from loan too, with only Miguel managing a goal and assist in his 7(2) games.

First Team - Reilly, Santos, Sibiya
Rotation - Krpec + 2 signings incoming
Loan Ended - Alexandre
Out - Pelletier

We have 3 world class strikers with 2 more free transfers coming, Krpec progressing and a wonderkid in waiting.


Targets

In conclusion, the targets for next season are another right winger and maybe a ready-made top-level goalkeeper.

But what I learned most of all is to trust my gut with transfers. Last time I did that, he became a Champions League-winning hero.

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2027/28 Club Football Review

Biggest Transfers

Karl Holt (DC/ST, English, 25) AC Milan to Bayern Munich - £12.75m + £5.75m-rated player
Gerardo Montiel (ST, Paraguayan, 22) - Estudiantes to Newcastle Utd - £18.75m
Nikola Obradovic (MR, Serbian, 25) - Sampdoria to Bayern Munich - £18.25m
Danilo Costantino (WB/M/AML, Italian, 26) - Atlético Madrid to Lazio - £17.75m
Tomas Michalek (DM/MC, Czech, 28) - Lazio to Bayern Munich - £17.75m
Róbson (ST, Brazilian/Italian, 20) - Arsenal to Man City - £17m
 

UEFA Champions League

It was the year of the underdog as Manchester United (in their first CL in 5 seasons), Panathinaikos (their first time out the group stage in 26 years) and Jelle Goes' FC Groningen (who made their CL debut 3 seasons ago and reached the semis last year) joined holders Marcelino's Newcastle United in the semis.

The Greeks beat the Geordies, while the Mancs thrashed the Dutch, and Man Utd eventually overcame Panathinaikos 3-0 in the final to win their 4th Champions League.


England

Premier League & FA Cup

Newcastle United retained the title in mid-April with 5 games to spare as the rest of the league was a cluster, with only 11 points separating 4th and 12th. They went on to beat Man Utd in the FA Cup final 3-0 for The Double.

Gareth Southgate's West Ham United and Craig Gordon's Coventry City finished 2nd and 3rd and will make their Champions League debuts. Unfortunately for the Hammers, Bayern Munich came calling, and Southgate will replace the retiring José Manuel de la Torre in the summer.

They will replace him with the current globetrotting Napoli manager Paul Trollope, whose managerial career started in Wales, moved to Sweden, then Greece, Turkey, France, Israel and Netherlands before Italy. That's 7 clubs, 7 countries and 13 years since he was last in the UK.

Big 2 side Arsenal were hit by scandal after a long search for Michael Laudrup's successor ended up with them simply promoting long-serving assistant and 'one-club player' Tony Adams... only for him to walk out 2 weeks later for AC Milan. (Undefeated!) The Gunners were quick this time to replace him with Simon Stewart, a man with an FM-calibre career starting from the bottom in the Conference with Rushden & Diamonds working all the way up to PSV. His Arsenal reign started with a 5-0 loss to West Ham, but they climbed into the top 4 by the end of the season...

...However, Man Utd's 10th place finish and Champions League win means Arsenal fail to qualify for the CL for the first time in 13 years.

Meanwhile, Yury Vergeichik's Liverpool finished 7th.

Paul Ince left Middlesbrough after 5 years which saw them lift their first FA Cup in 2027 and then the 2028 Europa League, as well as finish 7th twice and 6th once. He joins Bundesliga side Bochum in the summer.

La Liga-winning manager Pep Guardiola left Ajax to take charge at former Big 6 side Man City in January, but still failed to finish above United, ending in 11th.

Football League and Non-League

Keith Millen took charge at League Two Brentford in February, 35 years after he played for them.

Lee Cartwright's 22 years at Scarborough finally came to an end. He was made manager in 2019 and got the yo-yo club promoted back to the Conference National, but kept them there for 5 seasons until he was sacked just for flirting with relegation.


Scotland

A crazy season saw Jim Magilton's Aberdeen win their first SPL title since Alex Ferguson won back-to-back titles in 1985, and with ease.

Mixu Paatelainen's Motherwell and Gert Verheyen's Dundee United were their closest challengers before finishing 2nd and 3rd.

Celtic and Jonas Thern's Hearts, who were defending champions after 3 titles in 4 seasons, didn't even get in the top 6 before the split. Hearts finsihed 7th (their lowest position in 34 years), while Celtic finished 8th (their lowest in 63), earning Cosmin Olaroiu the sack.


France

On the final day, 3 teams played away to decide who would be the 1 to get relegated: scandal-hit Marseille, who had been in Ligue 1 for over 3 decades; Arnaud Cormier's Saint-Etienne, who had been in the division almost as long and were even champions only 3 years ago, and yo-yo side Romorantin.

Both Marseille and Romorantin lost 4-1, while Saint-Etienne won, meaning it was Marseille who finally got what's coming to them.

Meanwhile, my old employers Valenciennes sensationally sacked my replacement, Nancy legend Paul Fischer, for a bottom half finish. This is after he got the club to a shock 2nd and the Champions League last season.


Spain

On the final day, it was a 3-way battle between Aidy Boothroyd's defending champions Barcelona, John Harkes' Real Madrid, and Sevilla managed by Mike Richardson, who led Scotland to their first World Cup in 2022.

Real would've confirmed the title with a win, but failed to score in a 0-0 draw at Celta.

That meant Barcelona just needed a draw at home to title rivals Sevilla to stop them lifting their second ever La Liga trophy. Sevilla took an early lead, but Barcelona made it 1-1. Step up Slovenian striker Roland Fink, who scored in the 75th and 84th minute to help his team leapfrog both Barca and Real to win their first title in 82 years, via head-to-head record!


Elsewhere...

Former Milwall manager Teddy Sheringham replaced Louis Saha at Northern Irish Premier Division side Armagh with the club surprisingly bottom, and he saved them from relegation.

Former LA Galaxy player Landon Donovan was promoted from assistant at the club after nearly 9 years, but only lasted 9 months as manager. However, 2 months later he got a big job: Torino in Serie A.

The worst Barcelona manager in history, Hristo Stoichkov, was last seen managing in Tijuana...

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Posted (edited)

2027/28 International Football Review

Egypt 2028 Africa Cup of Nations

Algeria won in Egypt... in 2028 for their 2nd ever AFCoN, 38 years after their 1st, with a 1-0 win over Yakubu's Ghana after dominating hosts Egypt in a 2-0 win in the semis.

Former international Steve Komphela was sacked by South Africa after a quarter-final finish.

West Brom's Algerian striker scored 7 goals in the 9-0 win over The Congo, his first coming in 14 seconds.

Debutants Madagascar lost all their games, but didn't shame themselves.


Sweden 2028 European Championship Qualifying

Group A

Portugal - 21
-------------------------
Austria - 18*
-------------------------
Iceland -18*
Belgium - 17
San Marino - 5
Liechtenstein - 4
*Head-To-Head: Austria 2 - 2 Iceland, Goal Difference: Austria +6, Iceland +3

- Vincent Gentile's Belgium were 1-0 up with 10 minutes to go at home to Portugal, all set to qualify... then 2-1 down 10 minutes later. A last-minute penalty to equalise wasn't enough.

- On the final day, with Portugal already through, it was a straight shootout between Austria (at home to San Marino) and Larus Orri Sigurthsson's Iceland (away to Liechtenstein) to see who would make the playoffs likely on goal difference. Austria's 3-0 win beat Iceland's 1-0 win.

- Following on from a 1-1 draw against France last campaign, San Marino got a 3-1 win against Belgium!

- Liechtenstein's only goals and clean sheet came against San Marino.


Group B

Greece - 24
-------------------------
Czech Republic - 21
-------------------------
Northern Ireland - 17
FYR Macedonia - 10
Moldova - 9
Andorra - 0

- After Colin Clarke's side won Euro 2020, Iain Dowie's reign saw Northern Ireland return to normality as they failed to qualify for the next 4 tournaments. Now Dowie has finally been sacked and replaced with N. I. Under-19s and Ballymoney United manager Ben Heath.

- Mirsad Jonuz retired after failure to qualify in his 8 years as Macedonia manager

- Andorra have now failed to score in 6 years.


Group C

Germany - 17
-------------------------
Bulgaria - 15
-------------------------
Ukraine - 11
Lithuania - 10
Luxembourg - 2

- Needing a win, Frank Rost's Germany scraped qualification with a 1-0 over 10-man Luxembourg.

- Andriy Telesnenko was sacked after Ukraine's 3 failed qualifications in a row. His replacement is Under-19s manager Oleg Gubskyi.


Group D

Republic of Ireland - 16
-------------------------
Switzerland - 15
-------------------------
Belarus - 14
Romania - 11
Armenia - 1

- Razvan Lucescu's Romania failed to qualify for a Euros after 5 appearances in a row.


Group E

Israel - 12
-------------------------
France - 11
-------------------------
Cyprus - 10
Hungary - 8
Norway - 8

- Patrick Colleter's France were a minute away from failing to qualify for their 2nd tournament in a row, but a stoppage time winner against Roni Levy's Israel on the final day gave them a lifeline.


Group F

Netherlands - 17
-------------------------
Montenegro - 16
-------------------------
Serbia - 11
Malta - 7
Russia - 4

- At the World Cup, Russia drew with champions Scotland and beat Chile, while Brazil needed 10 penalties to knock them out. So for the new manager to finish with only 4 points, beneath Malta (who did reach the playoffs 2 years ago), is quite the failure. Match-side reporter Vladimir Putin was passionate in his criticism of the national team.


Group G

Italy - 15
-------------------------
Finland - 14
-------------------------
Poland - 11
Azerbaijan - 9
Latvia - 4

- Petri Pasanen's Finland, the Euro 2024 runner-up, were on their way to another tournament until Italy scored a stoppage time winner against Poland.

- Kamil Chapula survives the sack for now after failure to qualify with Poland, as he did take them to a World Cup quarter-final.


Group H

England - 17
-------------------------
Albania - 15
-------------------------
Turkey - 12
Slovakia - 12
Faroe Islands - 0

- Erik Kulfas' Slovakia were on the way to the playoffs, but they lost their 2-0 lead to Albania by the 88th minute. Had Albania scored a winner, they would've finished top.


Group I

Scotland - 19
-------------------------
Slovenia - 12*
-------------------------
Denmark - 12*
Kazakhstan - 7
Georgia - 6
*H2H: Slovenia 0 - 0 Denmark, GD: Slovenia 0, Denmark 0, Goals For: Slovenia 7, Denmark 5


Group J

Bosnia & Herzegovina - 16
-------------------------
Spain - 14
-------------------------
Croatia - 11
Wales - 11
Estonia - 3

Goran Topic's Bosnia & Herzegovina qualified for their first ever Euros.


Playoffs (aggregate)

Albania 2 - 4 Finland
Austria 2 - 1 Montenegro
Bulgaria 4 - 2 France
Czech Republic 1 - 0 Spain
Slovenia 2 - 3 Switzerland

Patrick Colleter's France miss the European Championships for the first time in 40 years.

Álvaro had taken Spain to 3rd at the World Cup, but they only won 1 match in that run. Now they've failed to top a group containing Bosnia & Herzegovina and lost to Czech Republic to fail to reach the Euros, and now he's sacked.


Euro 2028 Group Draw:

In order of likely finish:

Group A
Netherlands
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Bulgaria - Beat Sweden twice in World Cup qualifying
Sweden - Hosts, first tournament in 22 years

Group B
England
Greece - 4 points against Czech Rep. in qualifying
Czech Republic - Drew with England at Euro 2024
Portugal

Group C
Germany - Defending Euro champions
Italy - Lost to Germany in Euro 2024 semi
Israel
Austria

Group D
Scotland - Back-to-back World Cup champions, beating Brazil 3-1 in Brazil... with 10 men!
Switzerland - Lost on penalties to Scotland in 2026 World Cup quarters
Finland - Euro 2024 runner-up, lost both games to Swiss in World Cup qualifying
Republic of Ireland

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Sweden 2028 European Championship

Back-to-back world champions Scotland are humongous favourites, and expected to walk over every team they face. Whoever beats them would be the new favourite.

Success for hosts Sweden would just be getting out of the group.

Group A

(In order of likely finish)

Netherlands
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Bulgaria - Beat Sweden twice in World Cup qualifying
Sweden - Hosts, first tournament in 22 years

Sweden 1 - 1 Bulgaria
Sweden immediately threw away their lead.

Bosnia & Herzegovina 0 - 0 Netherlands
The Dutch hung on thanks to a save from an open goal and a clearance off the line.

Sweden 1 - 1 Bosnia & Herzegovina

Netherlands 1 - 0 Bulgaria
A lifeless 0-0 draw... yet Netherlands scored in stoppage time while embarrassingly time-wasting in the corner.

Bulgaria 3 - 0 Bosnia & Herzegovina

Sweden 2 - 3 Netherlands
An early goal for the hosts was followed by 2 from the Netherlands. Sweden scored an 89th minute equaliser and still needed another, but the goalkeeper hit his goal kick straight to a Dutch attacker for an easy goal. The hosts are out.

Table
Netherlands - 7
Bulgaria - 4

------------------------------------
Sweden - 2
Bosnia & Herzegovina - 2

====================================================


Group B

England
Greece - 4 points against Czech Rep. in qualifying
Czech Republic - Drew with England in Euro 2024
Portugal

England 4 - 0 Portugal
A disallowed England goal, a Portuguese sending off for 2 yellows, and 2 goals including a Maradona-calibre goal of the tournament occurred in just 24 minutes. Portugal had another sent off before 2 more goals, but England had dominated from the start.

Greece 0 - 0 Czech Republic
After a couple of early Greek chances, the game died out until a Czech player got his second yellow card. Yet it was the Czechs with the only 2 chances afterwards, getting their first shot after 70 minutes.

Portugal 2 - 2 Czech Republic
Portugal were mauled in the first half, but Newcastle's young sensation Joao (of course) scored 2 in 3 second half minutes to save his team. Could've had a hat trick at the end.

England 4 - 0 Greece
3-0 up at half-time, England ease into the knockouts.

Czech Republic 1 - 2 England
The Czechs needed a win to confirm qualification, now they have to hope the other game is a draw.

Greece 0 - 2 Portugal

Table
England - 9
Portugal - 4

---------------------------
Czech Republic - 2
Greece - 1

====================================================


Group C

Germany - Defending Euro champions
Italy - Lost to Germany in Euro 2024 semi
Israel
Austria

Israel 1 - 1 Germany
A deflected free-kick gave Israel a surprise equaliser.

Austria 1 - 0 Italy
Austria scored an easy early goal and could've had more.

Germany 1 - 0 Austria
An awesome bent goal from outside the area by Manchester United's Muller was the only goal.

Italy 0 - 0 Israel

Italy 0 - 1 Germany
Muller, again, eliminates an awful Italy with his zillionth long-range goal this season.

Austria 2 - 0 Israel
Just 3 shots out of 13 in the match were on target.

Table
Germany - 7
Austria - 6

-------------------
Israel - 2
Italy - 1

====================================================


Group D

Scotland - Back-to-back World Cup champions, beating Brazil 3-1 in Brazil with 10 men
Switzerland - Lost on penalties to Scotland in 2026 World Cup quarters
Finland - Euro 2024 runner-up, lost both games to Swiss in World Cup qualifying
Republic of Ireland

Republic of Ireland 1 - 1 Scotland
Both sides missed chances and R.o.Ireland took the early lead through a Man Utd's McIntosh headed corner. But his club teammate Pressley came on and delivered the cross that got the 87th-minute equaliser.

Switzerland 1 - 1 Finland

Scotland 0 - 0 Switzerland
Scotland couldn't get it in the goal. When they did, late on, it was ruled out for offside.

Finland 1 - 1 Republic of Ireland
Finland completely dominated the first half, but Ireland got an equaliser with their first shot on 55 minutes.

Everyone in Group D is level on points, so it's winner-takes-all.

Republic of Ireland 2 - 1 Switzerland

Scotland 1 - 0 Finland
An 87th-minute diving header saved Scotland from disaster.

Table
Republic of Ireland - 5 (+1 GD, +4 GS)
Scotland - 5 (+1 GD, +2 GS)

--------------------------------------------------------
Switzerland - 2
Finland - 2

====================================================


Quarter-Finals

Netherlands 1 - 0 Portugal
One of the worst games of football ever, where the only chances were set pieces and the goal lived up to that label. Netherlands scored when a deep cross, going wide and with no one on the end of it, was going to be catched by the keeper... but a defender moved in and headered it straight to a Dutchman who scored into the now wide open goal.

Austria 1 - 2 Republic of Ireland
In the 6th minute of stoppage time, Ireland fouled right in the middle on the edge of the area. The free kick was surely going in... but it hit the post and bounced right into the keeper's hands!

Bulgaria 1 - 0 England
England choke again.

Scotland 2 - 1 Germany
A crazy game where all the Man Utd players got involved. Scotland were 2-0 up in just 13 minutes when Reilly scored thanks to a Muller mistake, before a free-kick doubled the lead. Pressley then elbowed a player in the face for a red card, Germany scored with a 50-yard free kick that was supposed to be a ball into the box but went straight in, then had an 80th-minute equaliser ruled out.

====================================================


Semi-Finals

Netherlands 0 - 0 Republic of Ireland AET - Netherlands win 3-2 on penalties after 5 rounds (0-0, 0-1, 1-1, 2-1, 3-2)
Ireland killed the game despite the Dutch's lovely flowing football, but couldn't finish the job.

Bulgaria 0 - 1 Scotland
Another quiet game, with only a long-range free-kick separating the sides.

====================================================


Euro 2028 Final

@ Rasunda Stadium, Stockholm (AIK and Sweden national team)
A.K.A. 'That stadium with a SKYSCRAPER IN THE CORNER?!'

 Netherlands v Scotland

History

Netherlands are the joint-most winners of the Euros along with post-split Germany with 3, winning in 1988, 2008 and 2016.

Scotland are back-to-back World Cup winners but this is their first Euro final.

Form

Netherlands have been riding on a wave of luck. They survived a 0-0 with Bosnia, scored a late winner against Bulgaria while time-wasting, only beat hosts Sweden after a stoppage time goal kick went straight to a striker, then a bizarre defensive error gave them their only goal in the knockouts.

Scotland were expected to steamroll everyone but have needed late goals to avoid exiting at the group stage.

The 2 countries haven't met in 25 years and they have an even record.

Managers

Ex-goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg played over 300 games for Ajax, Kaiserslautern and Empoli, earning 9 caps for his country. He took charge of ADO Den Haag and Willem II, promoting both to the Eredivisie and taking the latter to a cup semi. Netherlands came calling in 2024 after failure to qualify for both the 2022 World Cup and Euro 2024, and he took them to the the next 2 tournaments.

Derek Sinclair took charge of Scotland in 2022 after their first shock World Cup victory over hosts Italy. He took them to the Euro 2024 semis before an incredible 2026 World Cup where they retained their title with a 3-0 mauling over hosts Brazil. With 10 men v 11 all match.

Team News

Netherlands are missing several players, including a striker (Brouwers) who has scored 3 of their 5 goals.

Scotland are missing a key centre-back, while Pressley, who made the assist for a key late win in their opening game, is still suspended for his elbow in the quarter-finals. 7 of today's starters started the World Cup final. 4 started the 2022 final.

Brouwers and 3 other players are sitting on 3 goals for the Golden Boot. Scotland's Wight is on 2.

Both teams play a standard 4-4-2, though Netherlands will be more reserved at first.

Netherlands: Mustafa (HSV); Mulder (Piacenza), Yahia (Liverpool), Ozan (Atlético), Schenkel (Coventry); Tijshen (Inter), Schaap (Recreativo), Hemkes (Real Madrid), Groenendijk (Liverpool); Jonker (PSV), van Leeuwen (Excelsior) - 3 Premier League, 3 La Liga, 2 Serie A, 2 Eredivisie, 1 Bundesliga

Scotland: Campbell (Recreativo); MacKenzie (Man City), McGregor (Chelsea), Scott (Liverpool), Twaddle (Blackburn); Brown (Lazio), Wight (AC Milan), Lynch (Middlesbrough), Hegarty (Coventry); Reilly (Man Utd), Davidson (Sheffield Wednesday) - 8 Premier League, 2 Serie A, 1 La Liga

First Half

3 - Reilly chases a ball and suddenly forces a corner. A few minutes later, a pass back to the Scottish keeper is kicked out in panic and gives the Dutch a corner, which comes to nothing.

10 - Davidson runs into the box, shrugging off Dutch attention, but blazes his shot over.

23 - A reaction save from the Scottish keeper blocks a close-range header from a free-kick.

39 - Netherlands make a substitution early, despite enjoying the better of the game. Stekelenburg takes off a striker for a midfielder and changes formation to a defensive 4-5-1. More bizarrely, the substitute is still recovering from a twisted ankle and would surely not survive extra time.

45+3 - The Dutch get a free strike at goal, but it's another fairly routine save.

Second Half

54 - The Scots get a header from a cross, but it goes over the bar.

60 - Scotland make a swap, subbing one central midfielder for another, and now they're playing a reserved 4-4-2, but stretching across the pitch.

64 - A Scottish chance goes over again.

70 to 73 - The Dutch substitute a striker for a defensive midfielder, Scotland sub one winger for another.

75 - A Scottish striker steals the ball, but skies it higher than it's ever gone before. Awful game.

77 to 80 - Both teams make their final sub. Netherlands changes strikers, Scotland takes off a booked winger and replace him with another winger.

88 - Man Utd's Reilly sees his name in headlines one more time to cap a dream season as he hits a good long-range shot, but it's still off-target.

90 - Reilly again, again off-target.

Full Time

99 - Scotland's corner is only cleared as far as the D, the ball is teed up for the substitute winger who rifles it into the far corner! At last. That was their first shot on target... Netherlands now have to attack, so change back to a 4-4-2, forcing them to play their defensive midfielder up front.

105 - Scotland have another chance, but the striker blazes it over again.

The game ends without a peep from Netherlands. Had Scotland not blazed 8 of their 9 shots over or wide, they would've thrashed Netherlands easily. Even on an off day, they win finals.

Full Time of Extra Time

Final Score

Netherlands 0 - 1 Scotland AET
Watt (100)

========================================================================

Euro 2028 Champions

Scotland

========================================================================

Scotland become only the 3rd team to hold both the titles of World and European champions after West Germany (1972, 74) and France (1998, 2000). Will their dominance ever end?

Awards

Golden Boot: Benjamin Stott (ST, England) - 3 goals (1 assist)
Player of the Tournament: Johannes Jurkovic (DR/C, Germany) - 8.00 average rating over 4 games
Young Player of the Tournament: Giorgos Andreadis (DC, Greece) - 20-year-old wonderkid, 6.67 average rating over 3 games.
MOTM award: 3 players from Bulgaria, Republic of Ireland and Scotland with 2 MOTM awards.

Team of the Tournament

Straub (Germany)
Jurkovic (Germany) -- McGregor (Scotland) -- Murphy (Republic of Ireland)
Boardman (England) -- Kirilov (Bulgaria) -- Stokes (England) -- Doyle (England) -- Hill (England)
Brouwers (Netherlands) -- Adams (Republic of Ireland)

European Championship Bests

Scotland - Winners (Previous Best: SF - 2024)
Republic of Ireland - SF (QF - 08, 24)
Austria - QF (Group - 08, 12, 20)
Bosnia & Herzegovina - Group (Never qualified)


Managerial News

Scotland's manager stepped down after taking surprise World Cup winners and cementing them as a dominant force by retaining the World Cup and completing a double with the European Championship. He was quickly announced as the new Middlesbrough manager, replacing Paul Ince.

Italy sacked their manager after finishing bottom of a weak group, failing to score at all against Austria, Israel or Germany.

The Czech Republic's manager also left.

The England manager clings onto his job ahead of football coming home to England when they host the 2030 World Cup, having achieved impressive results in qualifying, notably at home, as well as two 4-0 wins in the Euros. The minimum expected so far. The Confederations Cup will decide if he's fit to lead the team or if they need to change.


Man Utd Player Watch

Reilly (Scotland) became an Old Trafford legend this season, but the striker had a relatively quiet tournament with 1 goal and 2 assists.

Pressley (Scotland) backed up my view he's an impact sub, as he came on in the first game and set up a late winner. He started the other games and did nothing except get sent off for an elbow.

Muller (Germany) continued his Becks-like club form with a couple of long range goals, giving Germany 2 wins.

United's (usual) captain McIntosh (Republic of Ireland) scored 1, made 1 and was reliable.

Andreadis (Greece) will sign this summer as a wonderkid who won Young Player of the Tournament.

Souza (Portugal) was solid and scored a penalty.

Young striker Krpec (Czech Republic) also got a goal and 2 assists.

Kirn (Germany) got injured in 13 minutes.

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Posted (edited)

Man Utd - 2028/29 Pre-Season

Old Trafford Expands (Over 90 THOUSAAAAAAAAND!)

No doubt thanks to our winning Champions League run, there's huge news: Old Trafford is expanding again. The extra 16,000 seats will take capacity to a whopping 92,212, outdoing Liverpool's New Anfield by 31,212 and becoming the biggest stadium in Britain... even bigger than Wembley!

===============================================


Expectations and Odds

The board is pleased, while the fans are simply 'satisfied' and expect a title challenge, but the board remain conservative and only expect European qualification.

The media predict a low 7th.

Media-Predicted 2028/29 Premier League Table

(2027/28 league position in brackets)

1 - Newcastle United (1)
2 - Arsenal (4)
3 - Coventry City (3)
4 - Liverpool (7)
----------------------------------------------------------
5 - Chelsea (5)
----------------------------------------------------------
6 - West Ham United (2)
7 - Manchester United (10)
8 - Leicester City (6)
9 - Manchester City (11)
10 - Middlesbrough (12)
11 - Portsmouth (8)
12 - West Bromwich Albion (16)
13 - Tottenham Hotspur (9)
14 - Preston North End (13)
15 - Norwich City (14)
16 - Sheffield Wednesday (15)
17 - Sheffield United (1, Championship)
----------------------------------------------------------
18 - Nottingham Forest (3rd, Championship)
19 - Southampton (2nd, Championship)
20 - Blackburn Rovers (17)

Premier League Odds

2/1 - Newcastle United
14/1 - Arsenal
20/1 - Coventry City, West Ham United
25/1 - Chelsea
33/1 - Liverpool, Manchester United

There's no end in sight for Newcastle's domestic dominance.

Champions League Odds

3/1 - Newcastle United
15/2 - AC Milan
8/1 - Lazio
9/1 - Bayern Munich
10/1 - Internazionale, Manchester United

Incredible odds: the bookies think Lazio are more likely to win their first ever CL than we are to successfully defend it.

===============================================


Transfers

No chance of a big transfer budget this season. Other than £1m, any money I get will be from selling players.

The latest batch of freebies and summer signings:

-------------

Alexey Bondarev - GK - 22, Russia (U21), free bosman from Barcelona (La Liga) - Aerial Ability 11, Handling 20, Reflexes 20

Stolen from Barca before he could become a first team regular, the £2.1m-rated keeper will be new competition for the others. If wacky sweeper-keeper Abdel Aziz fails to perform, he'll get his chance.

-------------

Simphiwe Makhubo - DR/C - 26, South Africa (7 caps), free bosman from Marseille (Ligue 2) - Pace 12, Jumping 19, Strength 19, Tackling 16, Marking 12

In Marseille's relegation season, the £2.9m-rated defender got a 7.26 average rating.

-------------

Giorgos Andreadis - DC - 20, Greece (3 caps), £3.3m from Valencia (La Liga) - Pace 15, Jumping 17, Strength 17, Tackling 20, Marking 17

Wonderkid. Spent only 1 season at Valencia, getting a 7.28 average rating. Phwoar.

Profile

-------------

Elliot Burley - DC - 30, England (3 caps), free bosman from Inter Milan (Serie A) - Pace 16, Jumping 20, Strength 20, Tackling 16, Marking 18

Barely played any games after his £7m move to Inter, but has a brilliant record in the Premier League getting average ratings from 7.29 to 7.47.

-------------

Frank Larsen - DC - 23, Denmark (1 cap), free bosman from Twente (Eredivisie) - Pace 13, Jumping 19, Strength 18, Tackling 17, Marking 19

Got 7.16, 7.28 then 7.31 average rating in his 3 seasons in the Netherlands.

-------------

Júnior - ST - 30, Brazil (2 caps), free bosman from Bayern Munich (Bundesliga) - Pace 16, Jumping 16, Strength 16, Finishing 18, Composure 17, Off The Ball 15

A former transfer target, he spent the last 2 years on loan in the Premier League, getting 11 goals in 24 for Sheffield Wednesday last season.

-------------

Topic, who was signed just before I arrived, is finally sold for £5.75m, giving him the unique honour of having played for HSV, PSV and PSG!

With no targets currently available, we instead beat Juventus to a 21-year-old English wonderkid defender, signed from Chelsea for just £3.5m. Out on loan he goes!

===============================================


150th Anniversary Friendlies

Last season's Champions League win was poetic, as 150 years of existence was celebrated with wins over infamous European opponents like Benfica, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Creating a summer tournament proved too much of a problem, so we just had individual home games, beating 1999 Champions League semi-finalists Juventus and 1968 European Cup final opponents Benfica. We finished by recreating the club's first ever competitive match, Fleetwood Rangers v Newton Heath (with Man Utd v Fleetwood Town, a club who have never even reached the Conference North/South), and then a rematch of our last competitive game: against last season's Champions League finalists Panathinaikos.

I did tell the players to take it easy against Fleetwood, but they were 5-0 up in 12 minutes and 10-0 up by half-time! Last season's hero Reilly was on fire with world-class curlers and chips no one could stop.

(11th, Belgian top tier) Royal Antwerp 0 - 1 Man Utd (10th, EPL)

(10th, EPL) Man Utd 0 - 0 Juventus (4th, Serie A)
Man Utd win 3-2 on pens after 6 rounds (0-0, 1-1, 1-1, 2-2, 2-2, 3-2)

(10th, EPL) Man Utd 2 - 0 Benfica (1st, PPL)

(10th, EPL) Man Utd 11 - 0 Fleetwood Town (Non-League)

(10th, EPL) Man Utd 2 - 1 Panathinaikos (1st, SLG)

 

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2028/29: Man Utd

Premier League

Spoiler

(Predicted 12th) West Brom 1 - 0 Man Utd (Predicted 7th)
(Pred. 7th) Man Utd 2 - 0 Middlesbrough (Pred. 10th)
(Pred. 2nd) Arsenal 1 - 0 Man Utd (Pred. 7th)
(Pred. 7th) Man Utd 0 - 1 Newcastle Utd (Pred. 1st)
(Pred. 17th) Sheff Utd 0 - 3 Man Utd (Pred. 7th)
(Pred. 7th) Man Utd 1 - 0 Norwich (Pred. 15th)
(10th) Man Utd 4 - 0 Leicester (9th)
(6th) Man Utd 1 - 0 Portsmouth (20th)
(18th) Southampton 1 - 1 Man Utd (4th)
(7th) Man Utd 3 - 1 West Ham (8th)
(7th) Blackburn 1 - 1 Man Utd (3rd)
(3rd) Man Utd 1 - 1 Coventry (7th)
(13th) Man City 0 - 1 Man Utd (2nd)
(2nd) Man Utd 2 - 1 Sheff Wed (8th)
(4th) Chelsea 3 - 0 Man Utd (2nd)
(16th) Tottenham 2 - 2 Man Utd (7th)
(5th) Man Utd 1 - 2 Preston (16th)
(7th) Man Utd 2 - 1 West Brom (15th)
(13th) Middlesbrough 1 - 1 Man Utd (7th)
(7th) Man Utd 1 - 1 Arsenal (5th)
(7th) Man Utd 2 - 1 Nottingham Forest (19th)
(16th) Leicester 0 - 2 Man Utd (5th)
(6th) Liverpool 0 - 1 Man Utd (5th)
(1st) Newcastle 1 - 0 Man Utd (5th)
(5th) Man Utd 1 - 0 Sheff Utd (13th)
(7th) Norwich 0 - 2 Man Utd (3rd)
(3rd) Man Utd 3 - 1 Blackburn (12th)
(20th) Portsmouth 0 - 0 Man Utd (3rd)
(3rd) Man Utd 2 - 0 Southampton (18th)
(5th) West Ham 1 - 1 Man Utd (3rd)
(3rd) Man Utd 1 - 3 Tottenham (14th)
(3rd) Man Utd 3 - 1 Man City (12th)
(16th) Sheff Wed 1 - 2 Man Utd (3rd)
(4th) Coventry 0 - 2 Man Utd (3rd)
(3rd) Man Utd 0 - 1 Chelsea (5th)
(19th) Nottingham Forest 1 - 1 Man Utd (3rd)
(3rd) Man Utd 3 - 2 Liverpool (12th)
(11th) Preston 3 - 0 Man Utd (3rd)

FA Cup

Spoiler

3R: (1st, L2) Tranmere Rovers 1 - 3 Man Utd (7th, PL)
4R: (5th, PL) Man Utd 2 - 1 Barnsley (5th, Ch.)
5R: (11th, Ch.) Charlton 2 - 4 Man Utd (3rd, PL)
QF: (8th, PL) Norwich 2 - 0 Man Utd (3rd, PL)

League Cup

Spoiler

3R: (11th, Championship) Swansea 3 - 1 Man Utd (4th, PL)

European Super Cup @ Stade Louis II, Monaco

Spoiler

(Europa League Winners) Middlesbrough 2 - 0 Man Utd (Champions League Winners)

Club World Cup @ Japan

Spoiler

SF: (4th, EPL) Man Utd 2 - 0 Atlas (6th, Liga MX)
F: (4th, Brazilian Série A) Cruzeiro 0 - 2 Man Utd (6th, EPL)

Champions League
 

Spoiler

Group D

(1st, RPL) Zenit St. Petersburg 0 - 0 Man Utd (Pred. 7th, EPL)
(Pred. 7th, EPL) Man Utd 4 - 0 Porto (Pred. 2nd, PPL)
(1st, La Liga) Barcelona 0 - 0 Man Utd (6th, EPL)
(5th, EPL) Man Utd 1 - 0 Barcelona (2nd, La Liga)
(2nd, EPL) Man Utd 1 - 0 Zenit (1st, RPL)
(9th, PPL) Porto 1 - 1 Man Utd (3rd, EPL)

Table

1 - Manchester United - 12
2 - Barcelona - 11
--------------------------------
3 - Porto - 5
--------------------------------
4 - Zenit St. Petersburg - 4

1st Knockout Round

(1st, PPL) Benfica 0 - 0 Man Utd (3rd, EPL)
(3rd, EPL) Man Utd 3 - 2 Benfica (1st, PPL)
Man Utd win 3 - 2 on agg.

Quarter-Final

(1st, EPL) Newcastle 3 - 0 Man Utd (3rd, EPL)
(3rd, EPL) Man Utd 1 - 1 Newcastle (1st, EPL)
Newcastle win 4 - 1 on agg.


It was a season to be pleased with in the league. After finishing 10th but winning the Champions League last season, we easily finished in the top 4, only lost in Europe away to Newcastle, and got big derby wins. A resurgent Arsenal only leapfrogged us to 2nd because I played more experimental sides near the end.

The season started badly with 0 goals in 5 of our first 6 games, but a tweak in tactics (playing narrower) changed things and we were winning 3-0 and 4-0 again - Sibiya finally scored after 16 attempts and it became rare when we would fail to score at all. Bad habits returned in 2029: conceding very early goals, marking poorly at set-pieces, and stupid mistakes to the point of even passing it to the opposition. But the players were to blame and I was rewarded a new 4-year contract.

Our away form was no longer a disaster. We didn't pick up many wins at first, but we had the 2nd-best away form in the league (guess who was top). We embarrassed Barcelona in Camp Nou with our play, won the Manchester derby at City, a bunch of kids nearly won at Porto, and then we got our first win at New Anfield in 16 years.

We were also scoring late winners and equalisers. 10-man Barnsley were 2 minutes away from one of the biggest shocks in FA Cup history, as a team of youth and backup in a new formation went 1-0 down at Old Trafford. But 2 goals from substitute Junior in the final 2 minutes of stoppage time changed everything. In fact, 2 stoppage time goals were required again in the next round!

But it was clear that Newcastle were still too good as they knocked us out the Champions League. The big 2 of them and Arsenal did sit back in games in apparent fear and were only able to take points off us with one-off moments of brilliance, but Newcastle beat us 3 - 0 in an otherwise even game in the first leg, and we couldn't even beat them at home. It's clear our next goal is to get to their level somehow, despite their 36(!!)-goal striker and a defence that only conceded 16 league goals.

Another epiphany came when Chelsea came to Old Trafford and literally parked 11 players in their box to steal a 0 - 0 draw. News reports were scathing of Chelsea's anti-football to the extreme, but 'parking' the bus was becoming a real problem for us at home, losing points. Hitting the ball in the box and winning headers wasn't working against the mass of bodies, so a new approach will be needed next season to deal with the underdogs as well as Newcastle.

When I first arrived, the striker I signed (Sibiya) immediately became a star. 2 seasons later, my newest striker Reilly became a Champions League-winning hero. This season, free transfer Júnior was the hero, winning (sharing) the Golden Boot as he scored or assisted 28 goals in 35 games, regularly saving the day.

The money came rolling in during the winter transfer window with many big sales, finally funding the transfer I failed to complete in the summer: Souza, who can evidently play every position in our half of the pitch, but primarily bought for the wings:

Souza Profile

He scored both goals on his debut.

With money to spare, I took advantage of another cheap minimum-fee release clause to fill the left-back/wing-back spot with another sexy player:

Look at all those 20s!

Ridiculous attributes AND either-footed (a secret in-game boost). He's so well-rounded, he's put on his own specific training program to train every attribute.

With money still to burn, I also invested less than £10m in 10 future prospects.

The stadium expansion was completed mid-season, turning Old Trafford into a 92,212-capacity fortress and the biggest stadium in the land!
 

2028/29 Premier League Table

1 - Newcastle United - 79
2 - Arsenal - 72
3 - Manchester United - 69
4 - Chelsea - 61
-----------------------------------------
5 - Coventry - 60
6 - Middlesbrough - 59
-----------------------------------------
7 - West Ham United - 57
8 - West Bromwich Albion - 54
9 - Norwich City - 53
10 - Preston North End - 51
11 - Liverpool - 50 (+7 GD)
12 - Blackburn Rovers - 50 (-3 GD)
13 - Manchester City - 48
14 - Tottenham Hotspur - 45
15 - Sheffield Wednesday - 42
16 - Leicester City - 38
17 - Southampton - 37
-----------------------------------------
18 - Nottingham Forest - 36
19 - Sheffield United - 35
20 - Portsmouth - 20*
*Portsmouth qualify for Europa League as FA Cup runner-up

The Big 6 is gone. It's more like a Big 1 now as Newcastle eased to their 3rd title in a row, their 7th in the last 9, although the gap between them and the others was smaller.

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2028/29 - Man Utd Season & Squad Review

Premier League: 3rd
FA Cup: Quarter-Final
League Cup: 3rd Round
Champions League: Quarter-Final
European Super Cup: Runner-Up
Club World Cup: Winners
======================================

======================================

Reserves and Under-18s

The reserves won their first title in 9 years, in a group containing Liverpool, who had won 4 of the last 5, and Newcastle.

As well as being top scorers, they were the only side to concede less than 29 goals in 18 games - only 16. Also the least amount of cards.

Not bad for a team that I accidentally forgot to set a manager for...

Darren Fletcher's Under-18s won their 12th title in a row.
======================================

======================================

Confidence

The board are delighted with our stronger-than-expected league position. Also with our finances, which continue to grow now the club are back in the Champions League.

The fans are too. They expected a title challenge. We weren't quite there, but close.

======================================

======================================

Records and Rankings

We broke the Premier League record for average attendance with 77,694, while our overall average of 76,179 was a club record. Those will be smashed next year after a full season with our newly expanded 92,212-seater stadium.

With our new capacity, we naturally broke our record for highest gate receipts for one match: the Champions League quarter-final against Newcastle United earned £4.4m.

Old Trafford will also break England's record attendance, due to hosting some Confederations Cup games in the summer.

We drop 8 places to 15th in the European coefficients, but that will rise after the club's 3 seasons of getting knocked out of the Europa League First Knockout Round expire. Newcastle and AC Milan remain the Big 2.

We rise from 10th to 6th in the Rich List and are now just behind Newcastle.

1 - AC Milan - £447m
2 - Bayern Munich - £424m
3 - Real Madrid - £399m
4 - Barcelona - £347m
5 - Newcastle United - £339m
6 - Manchester United - £322m

======================================

======================================

Awards

Júnior wins Man Utd Fans' Player of the Year and shares the Golden Boot with 2 other players thanks to 15 goals, though he got it in the least amount of games: 27(5). It's the lowest amount ever scored for a Premier League Golden Boot.

English centre-back Burley, had the highest average Premier League rating by far with 7.50, 0.17 more than the rest.

They are Signing of the Season and runner-up for SotS respectively (both were free transfers), and came 2nd and 3rd for Players' Player of the Year respectively. They make the Team of the Year, while goalkeeper Bondarev is on the 'bench'.

I come 2nd for Manager of the Year.

For the 2nd season in a row, English winger Casey makes the Champions League Dream Team.

Free kick and long shot specialist Muller is runner-up for European Midfielder of the Year.

======================================

======================================

Tactics

Tactics died a horrible, spectacular death this season as teams cowered in the now 92,000-strong Old Trafford. It was ridiculous. At our place, some teams just stuck 11 men in their box and waited. Infuriatingly, it worked, they would somehow score too!

We were already playing a 4-1-3-3 (more like a 2-3-5) to combat the increasing defensiveness of teams, but now we didn't even need any players in our own half as there was no one to mark! While we were good at winning aerial balls, other clubs were now buying very strong defenders (18+ in Jumping and Stength), so shoving 11 men into their half and hitting balls in their swamped box wasn't working, so a change in approach is needed next season. I already had a policy of buying players who were good AND physically strong, but there's a lack of quality strikers who are dominant in the air in the world right now, and my past 3 strikers to have standout seasons have been average in the air. So I'm going to try the opposite extreme and keep the ball on the ground and get attackers to dribble through the 11-man mass.

Because of this 11 v 11 in one half, I realised pace is now the top requirement for home defenders. If an attacker is breaking, they still have to run 50 yards to get to our goal, so pacy defenders have the time and space to catch up to him and tackle him calmly.

Teams continued to try to bamboozle us with the 3-3-2-1-1 formation. I already found the solution by playing a crazy man-for-man 1-1-2-3-3 formation, but even now I have to push the wingers even further forward.

Despite these suicidal tactics, I still kept a couple of men back... but whenever I did this, or went back to a sensible formation after taking a lead, the opposition would quickly score. So next season it's back to the original plan: keep everyone forward and outscore them, even if it means they get a few free shots.

In more sensible matches, we showed we could take a lead or nick a goal and defend it, especially away from home. Now that we're counter-attacking away, we're even better.

We're also scoring late winners and equalisers a lot more.

As a result of all this, we were the 2nd-highest scorers in the league (more than Newcastle!), and joint-least draws with 9. We also scored the most penalties with 5. It didn't feel like it! Only other major concern is getting only 1 goal from a corner, when it was usually a source of several goals. Although we got the joint-most from indirect free-kicks with 11.

Given this attacking and counter-attacking style, the 4-4-2 diamond, the stoppage time comebacks, the habit of winning penalties, the Old Trafford fear factor returning, the shock Champions League trophy and even a rotated front 4, it looks like my goal of emulating 1999 is coming to fruition!

======================================

======================================

Staff

Assistant manager Tony Humes retires after 9 years at Man United. He started in 2020 as youth coach before I promoted him to assistant 3 years ago.

His replacement will be Brad Friedel, the American international goalkeeper who spent most of his career at Blackburn before becoming a scout.

======================================

======================================

Squad

The squad was a Europa League side when I arrived, then became a Champions League (winning!) side, and quickly a top 3 side. It's time to take it to the next stage and try to match Newcastle United.

(Only senior and first team squad players included)

GK

28. Alexey Bondarev - 23 years old, Russia (1 cap), valued at £3.4m - Played 47, Conceded 41, Clean Sheets 18, Man of the Match 1, Average Rating 6.94
17. Hamada Abdel Aziz - 24, Egypt (17) / France, £3.1m - P 7, Conc 8, CS 3, AvR 6.57
1. Thomas Butler - 25, England (U21), £2.7m - P 0

Bondarev started the season due to Abdel Aziz's injury and never lost the spot. At first his average rating was around 7.14, but a few so-so performances helped move it down. But, at last, I finally have a solid keeper.

Abdel Aziz was subbed off TWICE this season, though he had 'earned' a new contract as a backup after winning the Club World Cup. He's capable of world class saves and clean sheets, but we can't have a goalkeeper that can lose entire games, so the Champions League-winning keeper is going. Well, if anyone will risk having him.

No one wanted Butler on loan and he was injured 5+ times, including whenever he was about to get picked for a cup / nothing game, so he only played in the reserves. He's unhappy and requested a transfer, but I still have hope he's a future England #1.

Mahmoudi broke into the Iran squad; he has been travelling his pathway well.

(Next season's roles)
First Team - Bondarev
Backup/Out - Butler
Out - Abdel Aziz

It's a shame. We had 2 young keepers when I arrived, both looked world class, and neither have stuck around and reached their potential.
 

DR

12. (Renato Santos de) Souza - DR/C - 30, Portugal (4 goals in 49 caps) / Brazil, £4.7m - P 23(4), Assists 2, MotM 2, AvR 6.93
23. Simphiwe Makhubo - DR/C - 27, South Africa (9), £2.8m - P 19(4), Assists 1, AvR 6.83
+ Aleksandrowicz, (Rodrigo de) Souza

Makhubo started well, but overall wasn't reliable. I'd hoped he'd be an option in the centre too but, when I moved him there during a match, he made several errors and he was shoved back to the right for everyone's safety!

First Team -  (Renato Santos de) Souza
Backup - Aleksandrowicz
Backup/Out - Makhubo

 

DL

7. Steve McIntosh - Captain - D/WB/M/AML - 31, Republic of Ireland (11 in 56), £4.1m - P 33(1), G 2 A 7, MotM 3, AvR 7.24
5. Aktas Vezir - D/WBL - 25, Turkey (1 in 3) / Germany, bought from Valencia (La Liga) for £10.5m (valued at £20m) - P 15(1), A 5, MotM 1, AvR 7.06
+  (Rodrigo de) Souza, Viveros

McIntosh completed his transition to left-back and the captain led by example. He moved up to left-wing when Vezir came in and started getting goals and assists until his injury.

Thanks to a half-price minimum fee release clause, Vezir is McIntosh's long-term replacement. He's also being trained as a left-winger. He has so many 20s (see previous entry).

First Team - McIntosh, Vezir, Souza
Rotation - Viveros


DC

21. Elliot Burley - 30, England (3), £4.7m - P 43, G 3, A 2, MotM 10, 7.47
14. Richard Friar - 24, England (U21), £6m - P 28(1), A 2 MotM 3, AvR 7.31
25. Frank Larsen - 24, Denmark (5), £4.3m - P 17(1), MotM, AvR 7.44
6. Volker Kirn - 27, Germany (11), £4.8m - P 15(1), AvR 7.25
2. Jorge Padilla - 26, Ecuador (12), £2.3m - P 5, AvR 6.80
26. Giorgos Andreadis - 21, Greece (7), £3.4m - P 7, Avr 6.57
+ Aleksandrowicz, Makhubo, Souza, Souza

At first glance, you'd think Burley, Larsen, Friar and Kirn were rocks. I'm not sure how they got such crazy average ratings. In reality, Burley and Larsen made a few costly errors with poor marking, while Kirn was unassuming. Friar made a couple of errors, but was our most reliable defender.

Padilla's a fine defender, but we have so much depth and he failed to achieve in a cut-throat season. He requested a transfer anyway.

Andreadis signed as a wonderkid but, despite what the scouts said, he's evidently nowhere near our level yet.

Rotation - Burley, Friar, Kirn, Larsen
Youth - Andreadis
Out - Padilla


M/AMR

8. Ivan Hristov - D/WB/MR, DM/MC - 28, Bulgaria (22), £8.25m - P 28(7), G 3, A 4, AvR 6.91
4. Bartosz Aleksandrowicz - Vice-Captain - D/MR, DC, DM/MC - 26, Poland (31), £5.25m - P 29(14), G 1, A 5, AvR 6.81
22. Roddy Pressley - WB/M/AMR - 32, Scotland (1 in 41) / England, £3.5m - P 9(5), AvR 6.79
15. (Rodrigo de) Souza - DRLC/DM/MRLC - 23, Germany (1) / Brazil, bought from Real Madrid (La Liga) for £15m (£21m) - P 11(1), G 3, A 1, AvR 6.92

Hristov didn't repeat his incredible form of last season and had a few injuries, Pressley showed he wasn't an alternative and Aleksandrowicz is simply a defensive midfielder.

So, after a failure to capture him in the summer, I was finally able to pay Souza's minimum-fee release clause in January. He scored both goals in a debut win but unfortunately, as with all the good players, he was regularly injured. Maybe I'll tweak everyone's training...

I sold Pressley to Leicester for £3.3m. He had earned a new contract by the end of last season with his sub appearances helping lift the Champions League, but this season he made 0 assists and scored none.

First Team - Hristov, Souza
Out - Pressley


M/AML

11. Andy Casey - 23, England (U21), £8.5m - P 26(10), G 1, A 5, MotM 2, AvR 7.03
3. Juan Pablo Viveros - WB/M/AML - 34, Chile (3 in 67), £350k - P 22(12), G 1, A 3, Avr 6.91
+ McIntosh, Souza

Casey just needs to get more assists (or goals), but he's still young.

Viveros actually played more games than last season, with no drop in average rating, earning a new 1-year contract.

Rotation - Casey, McIntosh, Souza, Viveros


DM/MC

16. Sebastian Muller - DM/MC - 26, Germany (2 in 13), £8.25m - P 43(2), G 9, A 9, MotM 3, AvR 7.07
+ Aleksandrowicz, Artime, Hristov, Souza, Tsotetsi

Evidently, Muller is the engine of the side, providing defensive cover and goals equally. He enjoys scoring free-kicks and long range 'worldies'. We experimented training him into an AMC as his long-range ability made him perfect for home games against parked buses, but it had no impact. He finds joy coming in deep from central midfield so there he will stay.

With 2 new right-wingers in 3 transfer windows, Aleksandrowicz can now stay away from right-midfield and try to establish himself as a DM, but Muller is stiff competition.

First Team - Muller
Rotation - Aleksandrowicz, Artime, Souza


AMC

13. Luis Roberto Artime - MC/AMC - 24, Spain (2), £5.25m - P 27(13), G 3, A 1, MotM 1 AvR 6.82
24. Reginald Tsotetsi - MC/AMC - 24, South Africa (2 in 15), £5.5m - P 26(9), G 5, A 3, AvR 6.86
+ Popovic

After 11 assists last season, Artime only got 1 this year, but a slightly higher average rating despite several sub appearances.

Tsotetsi's contributions as AMC, an often quiet position, continue to plod along with the odd big goal, but he's still highly regarded by those in the game. Hopefully he begins showing more.

While used more as a striker during his few appearances, Popovic's lack of aerial ability mean's he's best as an AMC running at defences. Whether he can finish more chances will decide whether he becomes a United legend.

Rotation - Artime, Tsotetsi, Popovic


ST

20. Júnior - 30, Brazil (2), £16m - P 35(9), G 21, A 7, MotM 6, AvR 7.20
18. Kenny Reilly - 27, Scotland (9 in 22), £16.5m - P 10(8), G 4, A 2, MotM 1, AvR 6.83
9. Neil Sibiya - 25, South Africa (24 in 25), £25.5m - P 23(14), G 6, A 1, MotM 1, AvR 6.78
10. Santos - 27, Brazil (6 in 27), sold for £20m to Inter Milan (Serie A) - P 5(4), G 0, A 1, AvR 6.33
19. Jan Krpec - 24, Czech Republic (1 in 7), £6.25m - P 25(9), G 5, A 5, MotM 1, AvR 6.74
43. Predrag Popovic - AMC/ST - 23, Serbia (1 in 1), £5.75m - P 7(4), G 4, A 1, MotM 1, AvR 7.09
10. Stefan Schneider - 29, Germany (10 in 28), loan from Bayern Munich (Bundesliga) (valued at £9.5m) - P 5(2), G 3, MotM 1, AvR 6.86

Every season seems to see a new striker arise. My first 2 seasons, Sibiya was our star striker. Then last season Reilly was the hero. This season, free transfer Júnior became my first player to win (well, share) the golden boot while others faltered.

After a heroic Champions League-winning season, Reilly was dogged by injuries and we barely saw him this season. Naturally, with Sibiya and Reilly both being star strikers, there was wonder on whether they could play together. Naturally, they probably can't. That's how football works!

After scoring on 10th January, Sibiya missed a penalty 4 days later and never scored again in his last 8(6) games (838 minutes).

Santos failed to score at all for club or country in the first half of the season. Needing money to buy Souza, it was time to cash in. He did score 36 goals in his other 81(31) games for United.

Normally the 'home' striker, Krpec appeared in more away games, but his only problem was a failure to convert his many chances, only getting 5 goals from 28 shots on target, from 61 shots overall.

8 goals in 13 in Belgium followed by an international debut winner against Brazil was enough for Popovic to earn a work permit and join the team. He then got 3 in 2 for the reserves, so he couldn't be ignored and made his debut in the Club World Cup. Of course, he scored the late equaliser on his Premier League debut and a hat-trick on his FA Cup debut. A breakout season or flash in the pan?

Schneider isn't a future transfer.

First Team - Junior, Reilly, Sibiya
Rotation - Krpec
Backup - Popovic
Out - Santos

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2028/29 Club Football Review

Biggest Transfers

Marco Di Vito (DR/C/DM/MR/C, Italian, 26) - Roma to AC Milan - £33m
Róbson (ST, Brazilian/Italian, 21) - Man City to Arsenal - £28m
Gérard Sola (DR/L, Swiss, 27) - Arsenal to AC Milan - £21m
Guillermo Blanco (ST, Mexican, 28) - Bayern Munich to Juventus - £20m
Santos (ST, Brazilian, 27) - Man Utd to Inter Milan - £20m


Champions League

Tony Adams' shock disloyalty, when he left Arsenal to join AC Milan after only 2 weeks in charge, was rewarded as they matched Real Madrid's 10 Champions League trophies, with a 2-0 win over Gareth Southgate's Bayern Munich in the final.


England

Premier League & FA Cup

Marcelino García Toral retired after Newcastle United won their 2nd league & cup Double in a row. After arriving in September 2025 as the long-term successor to Sir Steve McClaren, he won back-to-back Champions Leagues, 3 FA Cups, and won the league in all of his full seasons. The gap had closed slightly due to a resurgent Arsenal and an improving Manchester United, however Newcastle have never been affected by manager changes before, so no bets are being made on a new champion any time soon.

At Arsenal, Simon Stewart (Adams' replacement) was sacked in his 2nd season with the team struggling for 4th and after an embarrassing Europa League exit to GAK, failing to even reach the group stage. But he was replaced with PSG's manager, whose first 19 games saw 3-0, 4-0, 5-0 and 6-0 wins and a run of 7 clean sheets in a row.

Former Bayern Munich, Man City and 2-time HSV manager Thomas Doll returned to management after 3 years away, taking charge of Premier League Norwich. They were 3rd by Christmas, but eventually finished 9th.

Pep Guardiola's time at Manchester City lasted barely over a year, as he left at the end of the season to join Torino. In his only full season, City actually finished 2 places lower with 1 less point than last year.

Sheffield United lost their manager to Atlético in September, but replaced him well with Feyenoord's Yildiray Basturk, who got a debut 3-0 home win over Arsenal. Unfortunately, when their on-loan Man Utd striker was injured and recalled, they subsequently failed to score in 7 games then again failed to score in their final 6 games, causing them to be relegated for the 2nd time in 3 seasons.

Football League

After 44 years away, Stoke City return to the Premier League after finishing 2nd in the Championship. Their manager joined a decade ago with the side battling relegation from League One.

Sunderland's dramatic fall and rise through the football league finally ended with a return to the Premier League as playoff winners. After the yo-yo club's last relegation from the top league in 2017, they dropped to League Two 5 years later. Phil Parkinson took charge with them midtable back in League One and got them promoted twice in 4 full seasons.

Chris Wilder resigned after 20 years and 13 days in charge of Stevenage. In that time he had taken the promotion-chasing Conference side down to Conference South, before going back up and finally reaching the Football League for the first time in 2020. They've stayed in League Two ever since, but Wilder resigned in March with the club in the relegation zone. They was no 'new manager bounce' under Phil Robinson and they went down.


France

This season's surprise title challengers were Dijon, who were in the 3rd tier only 8 seasons ago. They were top in February when their manager left for a second-tier Mexican side. Kennet Andersson came in and, on the final day, they had to win and hope back-to-back champions PSG lost.

A 90th-minute winner saw PSG's unlikely loss come to fruition... but Dijon also choked and lost, so PSG became the first club to win 3 titles in a row since Lyon's 2002-2006 dominance.


Scotland

It was a nostalgic season harking back to the 'Big 2' Glasgow-dominant era, as Atillo Lombardo's Rangers were top for most of the season, before Celtic rose and it was neck-and-neck on the final day. Rangers could only manage a draw, but Celtic failed to find a winner, so Rangers won their first SPL title in 7 years.


Northern Ireland

Andrés Iniesta was sacked by Northern Irish side Banbridge Town only half a season after becoming a hero by winning the league title and being one lost final away from a domestic treble. This with a side that had only ever won 1 league title, never reached an Irish Cup final and only 1 League Cup final before.

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2028/29 International Football Review

England 2029 Confederations Cup

(We all know what the theme will be.)

The Confederations Cup has grown into an important competitive tournament. Managers have been sacked or stepped down based on it, and the stakes were highest for hosts England's manager, whose 'ok' record was combined with a great home record of 10 wins and 2 draws, plus a a couple of 4-0 wins at Euro 2028 before choking. This was his final chance to prove he should lead England next year.

Unfortunately, he 'stepped down' by the end. A 0-0 draw with Algeria was followed by a draw with Argentina after going behind in 28 seconds. A routine win over Guatemala saved them, but Brazil easily beat them 2-0. A routine 3rd-place 1-0 win over World and European champions Scotland wasn't enough consolation. Of England's 4 goals, 2 came off the keeper and 2 were headered crosses. It wasn't a confident display.

With English managers spread out across top clubs in Europe, but international football becoming unpopular with top managers and now more a proving ground for the young and inexperienced ones, it'll be interesting to see who will replace him.

So Brazil lifted the trophy after they beat surprise finalists Algeria 1-0 with a stoppage time winner from Willian (not that one).

South Korea sacked their manager despite beating New Zealand and drawing with the World champions. They only need a draw in Iraq to qualify for next year.

Argentina have qualified for next year, but will hope to improve on 3 draws against Guatemala, England and Algeria.


2028 OFC Nations Cup

New Caledonia were 6 minutes away from a shock underdog win, after taking a 1-0 lead away to Travis Medhurst's New Zealand in the 2nd leg of the final. But the Kiwis scored twice to lift their 4th trophy in a row.


2029 CONCACAF Gold Cup

For the first time ever, neither Mexico nor USA reached the semis, and all the semi-finalists were hoping for their first trophy.

In the end, Panama beat Anthony Streete's Trinidad & Tobago 1-0 to make history.

Guadeloupe made their debut and lost 2-0 away to USA but had an entertaining 3-2 loss to T&T.

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Posted (edited)

Man Utd 2029/30 - Pre-Season

Budget and Transfers

For the first time since spending £100m in my first season 4 years ago, I get a considerable starting transfer budget: £26m.

To take us to the next step of being a challenger to the dominant Newcatle United, I'll have to get rid of players who are good, but just not top class game changers.
 

Outgoing

We're now making good money on sales due to youngsters I've bought coming of age. This season, other clubs flocked onto them, all wanting a piece. I've never seen so much rumour and interest, with several flitting in and out of official 'wonderkid' status. I must have a good eye for a player! I wonder what the team will look like in 4 years...

We made the same amount in player sales as last season, around £50m, including from our English goalkeeping prospect Butler. He looked like a future England #1 when I arrived, but never achieved that potential and makes mistakes. It's time to try and do it elsewhere in a World Cup year, and maybe he can make the England squad for England 2030.

He was set to move to Middlesbrough for around £5m, but it was cancelled due to Boro's lack of funds. This sparked a bidding war from several Premier League clubs plus Celtic and Rangers and, on deadline day, he moved to Norwich City for £20m! That's probably a Premier League record for a goalkeeper (can't be arsed to check in-game).

There's also a rare move: one of our reserve defenders goes on loan to Liverpool.


New Players

The problem is overcoming Newcastle's incredible strength and technical ability. We also need to figure out how to stop teams stealing points at Old Trafford, now that they're putting 11 men in their box.

I need a top striker that's strong, especially in the air with accurate heading. Unfortunately, none seem to exist. So a complete change in tactical approach is needed, and I have to look at playing the ball on the ground and having individuals perhaps dribble their way into the box while holding off the mass of defenders with their strength.

Eventually I narrow it down to two: one attacker who only joined his club in January, so is far too much at £40m, the other I do sign.

--------------------------------------------

Willian - ST - 25, Brazil (3 goals in 5 apps), £25m from Hertha BSC (Bundesliga) - Pace 17, Jumping 15, Strength 20, Finishing 20, Composure 14

His goal record is being ignored because, while he scored 43 goals and made 11 more in his first 2.5 seasons after moving from Brazil to Groningen, he didn't score any in his final 23(2) games. He moved to Hertha and only scored 2 and made 1 in 19(1) games. However, in the Confederations Cup, he scored all the goals in a 2-0 semi win over England and a 1-0 win in the final.

His Dribbling in 20, decent First Touch and competent Technique means he can play on the ground, but he can win some balls in the air and direct them into goal, especially against lesser opposition. That's the plan, anyway.

--------------------------------------------

Under the same policy, I get a technically incredible youngster for only £600k:

--------------------------------------------

Hugo - ML/C, AML/C - 19, Brazil (U19), £600k from Feirense (Portuguese Second Division) - 20s all over the place!

Profile

Except for Headling, Marking and Tackling, his entire technical game is orange. As long as he physically grows, he could be scary. I'm going to keep him in the first team squad for now.

--------------------------------------------

I also finally get a good, experienced backup keeper:

--------------------------------------------

Charlie Whyte - GK - 31, Scotland (1 cap), free bosman from West Brom (Premier League) - Aerial Ability 17, Handling 16, Reflexes 19

Spent 12 years at WBA, usually getting 7.00 average rating or over, although he's been below 7 the last 2 seasons.

--------------------------------------------

And a loan:

--------------------------------------------

Domingos - DR/C - 34, Portugal (17 caps), loan from Lazio (Serie A) - Pace 12, Jumping 18, Strength 17, Tackling 20, Marking 13

Has spent the last 4 seasons in the Premier League with average ratings of 7.17, 7.18, 7.16, 7.07.

=================================================

 

=================================================

Friendlies

(3rd, Belgian top tier) Royal Antwerp 1 - 1 Man Utd (3rd, EPL)

(17th, Ch.) Burnley 1 - 2 Man Utd (3rd, PL)

(3rd, EPL) Man Utd 1 - 0 AC Milan (1st, A)
Hugo doesn't endear himself to his new manager by publicly criticising my lack of team talk (I don't really give any for friendlies), especially as he was the only one who was bothered by it. He's warned.

Reserves 1 - 1 First Team
First Team win 5 - 4 on pens after 8 rounds (1-1, 2-2, 2-3, 2-3, 3-3, 3-3, 4-4, 4-5)
In Butler's only game of pre-season, he makes a mistake in the final minutes. Not a good way to win back favour...
But the shootout gives me a lot of penalty info.

=================================================

 

=================================================

Expectations and Odds

The board and fans are delighted with the progress and are in full support of my management.

The board want a title challenge, the fans think this season is the season we win it.


Premier League Odds

2/1 - Newcastle Utd
8/1 - Arsenal, Man Utd
16/1 - Chelsea
20/1 - Coventry
33/1 - Middlesbrough

Pretty clear tiers, which I agree with. The only hope is that Newcastle's change in manager ruins them temporarily.


Champions League Odds:

3/1 - AC Milan, Newcastle Utd
5/1 - Lazio
15/2 - Bayern Munich
8/1 - Arsenal
9/1 - Inter

Perennial favourites Newcastle are joint-favourites with the defending champions.

Bookies continue to be high on Europa League winners Lazio, despite their failure to get out of the group stage for 3 seasons in a row now.

Our odds are unchanged at 10/1.
 

Media-predicted 2029/30 Table

(Last season's position in parentheses)

1 - Newcastle United (1)
2 - Arsenal (2)
3 - Manchester United (3)
4 - Chelsea (4)
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5 - Coventry City (5)
------------------------------------------------------------
6 - Middlesbrough (6)
7 - West Ham United (7)
8 - West Bromwich Albion (8)
9 - Liverpool (11)
10 - Norwich City (9)
11 - Manchester City (13)
12 - Preston North End (10)
13 - Leicester City (16th)
14 - Tottenham Hotspur (14)
15 - Blackburn Rovers (12)
16 - Sheffield Wednesday (15)
17 - Bolton Wanderers (1, Championship)
------------------------------------------------------------
18 - Southampton (17th)
19 - Stoke City (2, Championship)
20 - Sunderland (5, Championship)

Not much faith in any major improvements for teams this year.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Manchester United 2029/30

Geordies Off Their ****ing Perch?

August to March: The Old United

Results
 

Spoiler

Champions League - Third Qualifying Phase, 1st Leg

(Pred. 3rd, Ligue 1) Dijon 0 - 2 Man Utd (Pred. 3rd, EPL)

Premier League

(Pred. 20th) Sunderland 0 - 3 Man Utd (Pred. 3rd)

Champions League - Third Qualifying Phase, 2nd Leg

(Pred. 3rd, EPL) Man Utd 3 - 0 Dijon (Pred. 3rd, Ligue 1)

Man Utd win 5-0 on agg.

Premier League

(Pred. 13th) Leicester 1 - 2 Man Utd (Pred. 3rd)
(Pred. 3rd) Man Utd 2 - 0 Arsenal (Pred. 2nd)

Champions League Group Stage

(Pred. 3rd, EPL) Man Utd 0 - 0 Hannover (Pred. 5th, Bundesliga)

Premier League

(Pred. 10th) Norwich 2 - 1 Man Utd (Pred. 3rd)
(Pred. 3rd) Man Utd 3 - 0 West Ham (Pred. 7th)
(2nd) Man Utd 2 - 0 Stoke (12th)

Champions League Group Stage

(1st, Super League Greece) Asteras Tripolis 1 - 2 Man Utd (2nd, EPL)

Premier League

(4th) West Brom 1 - 0 Man Utd (2nd)

Champions League Group Stage

(8th, SA) Lazio 1 - 3 Man Utd (3rd, EPL)

Premier League

(19th) Sheff Wed 0 - 0 Man Utd (4th)

League Cup - 3rd Round

(15th, Ch.) Everton 0 - 1 Man Utd (3rd, PL)

Premier League

(3rd) Man Utd 2 - 1 Man City (7th)

Champions League Group Stage

(1st, EPL) Man Utd 1 - 1 Lazio (6th, SA)

Premier League

(4th) Newcastle 2 - 2 Man Utd (3rd)

League Cup 4th Round

(19th, PL) Southampton 0 - 3 Man Utd (2nd, PL) AET (0-0 FT)

Premier League

(2nd) Man Utd 2 - 0 Blackburn (6th)
(12th) Coventry 2 - 2 Man Utd (1st)

Champions League Group Stage

(13th, Bundesliga) Hannover 3 - 1 Man Utd (1st, EPL)

Premier League

(1st) Man Utd 1 - 0 Middlesbrough (15th)
(2nd) Liverpool 1 - 1 Man Utd (1st)
(1st) Man Utd 0 - 0 Preston (9th)

Champions League Group Stage

(1st) Man Utd 0 - 0 Asteras Tripolis (2nd, Super League Greece)

Premier League

(3rd) Chelsea 0 - 1 Man Utd (1st)
(2nd) Man Utd 2 - 0 Tottenham (10th)
(1st) Man Utd 3 - 0 Southampton (20th)

League Cup Quarter-Final

(1st, PL) Man Utd 2 - 0 Preston (12th, PL)

Premier League

(8th) Bolton 0 - 4 Man Utd (1st)
(1st) Man Utd 0 - 0 Sunderland (18th)
(14th) Arsenal 3 - 1 Man Utd (1st)
(2nd) Man Utd 1 - 0 Leicester (14th)

FA Cup - 3rd Round

(10th, Ch) Hartlepool 1 - 1 Man Utd (1st, EPL)

League Cup Semi-Final, 1st Leg

(1st, PL) Man Utd 1 - 0 Sheff Utd (1st, Ch)

Premier League

(16th) West Ham 2 - 1 Man Utd (1st)

FA Cup - 3rd Round Replay

(1st, PL) Man Utd 2 - 0 Hartlepool (13th, Ch)

Premier League

(1st) Man Utd 2 - 1 Norwich (10th)

League Cup Semi-final, 2nd leg

(1st, Ch) Sheff Utd 2 - 0 Man Utd (1st, PL)
Sheff Utd win 2 - 1 on agg.

FA Cup - 4th Round

(1st, PL) Man Utd 3 - 1 Stoke (20th, PL)

Premier League

(20th, PL) Stoke 2 - 4 Man Utd (1st, PL)
(1st) Man Utd 2 - 0 West Brom (8th)
(5th) Blackburn 1 - 2 Man Utd (1st)

Champion League - 1st Knockout Round, 1st Leg

(1st, EPL) Man Utd 1 - 0 Feyenoord (2nd, Eredivisie)

Premier League

(1st) Man Utd 2 - 0 Sheff Wed (17th)

FA Cup - 5th Round

(15th, PL) Middlesbrough 0 - 2 Man Utd (1st, PL)

(8th) Man City 2 - 3 Man Utd (1st)

Champion League - 1st Knockout Round, 2nd Leg

(1st, Eredivisie) Feyenoord 0 - 2 Man Utd (1st, EPL)
Man Utd win 3-0 on agg.

We had never won the first away game of the season while I was in charge. This season, we were 3-0 up at Sunderland in half an hour of our league opener, with new £25m signing Willian scoring from the tightest angle possible like it's nothing.

The train started rolling, with Willian scoring in his first 4 games and partner Reilly scoring or assisting in all of his first 10 starts, only ending in April. Even when they and Sibiya failed to score, a midfielder might break through or Muller would score a last-minute free kick to bring back visions of Sir David Beckham.

Under our new tactics, we couldn't stop scoring and enjoyed taking early leads. We wanted to be entertaining, though we lost at Norwich due to chasing a win rather than settling for a point. A vital point dropped?

We passed every test, beating Arsenal, Man City, going to back-to-back-to-back champions Newcastle's ground (who are now unbeaten in 46 home games) and New Anfield and coming away with unlucky draws (outshining the former with sexy passing football, and embarrassing the latter by debuting a young centre-back), then going to Stamford Bridge and beating them for the first time in 6 years, and away for the first time in 16 years!

By the halfway point, after 8 clean sheets in a row, we were just about top of the table, and had got the hardest games out of the way.

In 2030, another statement: we went to Man City...

...Played with 10 men the whole match and beat them in an entertaining game, simply switching our 4-1-3-2 to a 3-1-3-2. Bondarev saved 8 of their 10 shots, we drew 34 fouls from our short dribbling game, and won 80% of our headers, mainly in our own box. City played right into our hands.

All our rivals were dropping points and we eventually gained a 7-point lead going into the business end of the season.

Meanwhile, we beat hipster's favourite Lazio 3 - 1 at their own ground and gradually progressed in the Champions League despite rotation, and the FA Cup despite a harsh penalty and Hartlepool's Championship-level finishing stopping them getting the biggest result in their history in either leg of the 3rd Round.

Plus the backup and youth reached the semis of the League Cup, but were beaten in the 97th minute of the 2nd leg by a corner won from them trying to waste time...

Champions League Group H Table

Lazio - 13
Man Utd - 9
---------------------------
Hannover - 6
Asteras Tripolis - 3

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March to May: Squeaky Bum Time

Results
 

Spoiler

FA Cup - Quarter Final

(2nd, Ch.) Leeds 2 - 0 Man Utd (1st, PL)

Premier League

(1st, PL) Man Utd 0 - 0 Newcastle Utd (2nd, PL)
(6th) Tottenham 0 - 2 Man Utd (1st)

Champions League - Quarter-Final, 1st Leg

(2nd, SA) Lazio 3 - 2 Man Utd (1st, EPL)

Premier League

(1st) Man Utd 1 - 0 Coventry (11th)

Champions League - Quarter-Final, 2nd Leg

(1st, EPL) Man Utd 1 - 2 Lazio (2nd, SA)
Lazio win 5-3 on agg.

Premier League

(14th) Middlesbrough 2 - 0 Man Utd (1st)
(1st) Man Utd 1 - 0 Liverpool (5th)
(13th) Preston 0 - 0 Man Utd (1st)
(1st) Man Utd 0 - 1 Chelsea (3rd)
(20th) Southampton 0 - 0 Man Utd (1st)
(1st) Man Utd 2 - 0 Bolton (15th)

Then suddenly, we lost to Championship Leeds in the FA Cup, our 'game of the season title decider' at home to Newcastle ended 0 - 0, lost both legs of the Champions League Quarter-Final to Lazio (a team we got 4 points off of in the group stage), then lost at Middlesbrough.

But Newcastle kept dropping points, leading to their boss getting banned for his outrage, and we scraped a win at home to Liverpool, with a set-piece goal followed by a saved Liverpool penalty.

Newcastle and Chelsea threw away leads and dropped more points, so a win at Preston would clinch the title. We drew 0 - 0.

It should be noted that had we settled for that point at Norwich, we would've been champions by now. Instead, Chelsea came to Old Trafford and won 1 - 0, despite going down to 10 men through injury. Really, this was a good result for us, as goal difference meant they wanted a big win. But we lost the chance of one last big title-winning moment and clinched the title with an anti-climactic 0 - 0 at relegated Southampton after having a penalty saved.

We ended on a high though. An entertaining 2 - 0 home win for a reserve team, with 8 league debuts on the day, saw an incredible curled free kick (not even by Muller) and a bright young sub score in stoppage time.

Then the 92,200 at Old Trafford celebrated the first Premier League winner not named Newcastle or Arsenal in 15 years!


2029/30 Premier League Table

 

1 - Manchester United - 78
2 - Newcastle United - 71 (+29 Goal Difference)
3 - Chelsea - 71 (+25 GD)
4 - Arsenal - 69
----------------------------------------------------------
5 - Liverpool - 60
6 - Tottenham Hotspur - 59
7 - West Bromwich Albion - 56
8 - Norwich City - 55
9 - Manchester City - 53
10 - Coventry City - 51
11 - Blackburn Rovers - 50
12 - Preston North End - 46
13 - Middlesbrough - 45 (0 GD)
14 - West Ham United - 45 (-4 GD)
15 - Sheffield Wednesday - 41
16 - Bolton Wanderers - 39
17 - Leicester City - 38
----------------------------------------------------------
18 - Sunderland - 33
19 - Stoke City - 28
20 - Southampton - 27

A familiar-looking top 6 (if you replace the unstoppable Man City with the unstoppable Newcastle)!

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Man Utd 2029/30 Season & Squad Review

Premier League: Winners
Champions League: Quarter-Finals
FA Cup: Quarter-Finals
League Cup: Semi-Finals

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Reserves and Under-18s

Denny Mundee's defending Reserve champions finished 4th as Liverpool won their 5th Group 1 title in 7 seasons. Though we did break the record for highest attendance when 3,725 watched the opening 3-1 loss to Bolton.

Darren Fletcher's Under-18s won their 13th Group 3 title in a row with 3 games to spare, eventually winning by 14 points. They broke the record for most consecutive wins; they currently have 16 in a row.

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Confidence

The board confidence is a rare "absolutely thrilled with the level of commitment you continue to show the club". They expected a title challenge and are delighted with the title win, as well as the financial status of the club.

Naturally the fans, who were expecting a win, are also delighted.

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Finances

The balance is above the £100m mark for the first time since 2025 i.e. since I arrived, when it went into the red briefly in 2026 and again a year later.

Although the expansion of Old Trafford to 92,212 seats was completed early last season, we still saw a £12.5m jump in gate receipts this season now we've had a full season inside the intimdating bowl.

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Records

As above, the club's record average attendance was unsurprisingly broken: 80,945.

Our Premier League average attendance of 84,311 was a record and 25,000 higher than anyone else.

We broke the Premier League attendance record with 92,205 watching Utd v City, 4 more than who watched Utd v West Ham last season!

We also broke the club record of most games in a row without conceding: 8 (in December 2029)

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Staff

Coach and Reserves Manager Denny Mundee retires after over 4 decades in the game. After playing in the football league and non-league for the likes of Brentford and Bournemouth, he was youth coach at Watford and then 18 years at Preston, before joining Manchester United in 2028.

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Tactics

Last season I said tactics died a horrible death, with teams parking 11 men in the area sometimes and me having to hurl 10 men into their half. But this season is when tactics won the title, with beautiful football too!

To beat teams parking the bus, throwing people forward wasn't working. It's hard to get through 11 bodies. So this season I decided to play strictly on the ground, running past and through defences and avoiding crosses and long balls. If the player doesn't get through, he may still be fouled in dangerous areas, and we have arguably the deadliest free kick taker in the world.

This not only worked for home games, with defenders having to deal with players coming at them, but away games when there was more space to run forward. We produced the sexiest passing football in the country and plenty of Maradona-esque goals.

I changed from my trusty 4-4-2 diamond to a variation of the formation I played at Valenciennes on our return to Ligue 1 that saw us qualify for Europe for the first time ever: 4-3-1-2 with 3 staggered central midfielders, with the attacking outside 2 going forward. I quickly moved the AMC to DM, so the default changed to a 4-1-3-2, which improved defensive cover but was still very attacking in the middle.

In normal play, the back 4 would stay back, the 1 DM would be somewhat defensive, the middle CM would be of normal mentality, one of the outside CMs would be attacking, and the other CM would be even more attacking.

When teams were parking the bus, this changed to a 4-3-1-2 with wing-backs. The wing-backs' mentality would be slightly below attacking, the DM-now-CM would go to normal, and the CM-now-AMC would be ultra-attacking.

When teams moved to the dreaded 3-3-2-1-1 formation, I'd push the wingbacks' runs all the way to the edge of their box, though not really change mentality. This gave the strikers more wide support, rather than having them wandering wide so much themselves.

Other settings:

Creative Freedom: None, but set individually based on their Flair, Creativity and Decisions.

Passing Style: Changed from short to all the way short.

Tempo: 1 notch slow, though not the slowest. Previously it had been fast, as the last thing I wanted was my error-prone defence passing it around or to their error-prone goalkeeper. But now my defence isn't so error-prone. I also kept patient up against the parked buses particularly. Normally, if there had been little happening for 30 minutes, I'd change something (like making the tempo faster or playing it a bit more in the air). But now I waited. Just by having the ball, we could win free kicks or corners, the former being particularly threatening, but it could take time before one goes in.

Width: A few notches away from ultra-narrow.

Closing Down: 1 notch often.

Time Wasting: Ultra-rarely. Attack is the best form of our defence and it was better to build an attack rather than run to the corner or boot it away. I'd only use it in stoppage time or in a game with few chances to scrape that win or point.

Defensive Line: Deep. As explained a while ago, we guided the opposition to use their flanks and hit crosses in, so we could head them away while avoiding a central threat. Playing deep encouraged this more, while central attacks would often be long-distance shots. To score you usually had to score a world class long-ranger... sometimes... However, against the parked buses, the line would be pushed up nearly all the way. The opposition are hoping to break (if even that), so we want their attacker to need to cover as much ground as possible before getting to our goal i.e. from the halfway line, so our pacy defenders could catch up to them and get a last-second tackle in. A common sight at Old Trafford.

Tackling: Normal. Although I did consider the real-life Man City tactic of having the strikers hard tackling, so they'd concede fouls to stop counter-attacks, but my defence was doing fine winning the counter-attack races anyway.

Marking: Zonal, although the centre-backs man-marked the striker(s), the DM (or CM when attacking) would mark their AMC, and the wing-backs would mark the central midfielders midfielders of bus-parkers (otherwise they'd be wide open to finish a move).

Corner Supply: Corners used to be a great goal source but midway through the season, with no goals from corners, I changed the corner supply setting from challenge GK to mixed. Now the taker could pass it short to a dribbler or it might find its way to the Gerrard-esque Muller 'lurking' in the D to score. Though we only scored once in the league.

Throw Supply: Long. May as well make use of those long-throwers!

Other tidbits:

We had the highest indirect free-kick goals with 14. Muller's free-kicks made us the highest direct free kick scorers too with 10.

I realised it'd be a good idea to have my full-backs, at least the ones who couldn't pass or cross,  set to cross and / or deliver through balls anyway, as they tended to lose the ball when the reached the box because they were looking for a pass when they could've just hit it in.

As a result of all this, we had the best away record in the league, by far scoring the most (29), and also the highest overall scorers in the league (57). We only conceded 3 goals at home.

3 of the top 4 dribblers in the league were United players and all strikers: Reilly (1st), Willian (3rd) and Sibiya (4th).

The top 5 pass completion rates were all taken up by United players (3 midfielders and the 2 centre-backs).

As well as top passers, that centre-back pairing Friar and Rabatti were also 2nd and 3rd top tacklers.

Notably, only one of our strikers got double figures in goals, Willian with 10. But the goals were shared around by the other 2 main strikers (Reilly and Sibiya) and Muller, with his free-kicks thanks to the dribblers conceding all those fouls, getting 9 each.

Another thing of note is my first XI became very regular with not much rotation, though this was more due to the poor form of everyone else than anything.

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The Title-Winning Squad

They failed in the cups at vital moments and we were lucky that Newcastle struggled for a while. So, even though we won the long lost Premier League title, changes will continue to come.

(Only senior and first team squad players included)

GK

1. Alexey Bondarev - 24 years old, Russia (7 caps), valued at £8.5m - Played 52, Conceded 36, Clean Sheets 29, Man of the Match 1, Average Rating 6.88
17. Charlie Whyte - 32, Scotland (1), bosman (valued at £2.3m) from West Brom (PL) - P 5, Conc 6, CS 3, AvR 6.80

An established #1 makes all the difference. Bondarev made 1 or 2 memorable errors, but nothing like past keepers. He made several world class saves too.

Whyte was a bit unhappy but he DID join the club on the understanding he's a backup.

We have a slew of good-looking young keepers. One a January English signing who played 3 Premier League games aged just 18 with an average rating of 7.67 and played 7 games in the Championship this season with 7.14. But I'd prefer to keep Whyte's experience.

(Next season's roles)
First Team - Bondarev
Backup - Whyte


DR / WBR

12. (Renato Santos de) Souza - SW, DR/C - 31, Portugal (4 goals in 52 caps) / Brazil, £4.4m - P 41(1), Goals 3, Assists 4, MotM 1, AvR 7.02
2. Domingos - DR/C - 34, Portugal (17), loan from Lazio (Serie A) - P 10, A 2, AvR 7.10
+ Aleksandrowicz, Hristov, R.d.Souza

Domingos did a great job, but when he came back from injury in February, he'd lost his physicality. Age has caught up quickly.

Youngster Spinelli infamously went on loan to Liverpool, but damaged his cruciate ligaments before he could play. He was set to play our final game of the season, but got injured in the last reserve game. Who knows how he'll do?

It might be worth looking out for an attack-minded right wing-back, but it's not a priority.

First Team - Souza
Backup - Hristov, R.d.Souza
Out -
Aleksandrowicz, Domingos (returns from loan)
Youth Promotion - Spinelli


DL / WBL

3. Juan Pablo Viveros - WB/M/AML - 35, Chile (3 in 67), N/A - P 26(4), G 3, A 2, AvR 7.10
5. Aktas Vezir - D/WBL - 26, Turkey (1 in 5) / Germany, £10.5m - P 26(14), G 2, A 2, MotM 2, AvR 6.95
7. Steve McIntosh - D/WB/M/AML - 32, Republic of Ireland (11 in 63), N/A - P 11(9), A 1, AvR 6.85
+  R.d.Souza

Viveros earned himself ANOTHER 1-year extension at the club with his best season since his debut, aged 34/35. A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one!

Vezir let himself down, completing only 62 of 99 tackles and making 8 errors. Can do a lot, lot better given all the 20s in his attributes.

McIntosh's last game was in January. The former captain failed to perform this season and his contract is allowed to expire after a testimonial and a decade making just under 300 appearances for the club.

First Team - Vezir
Backup - R.d.Souza, Viveros
Out - McIntosh


DC

32. Marco Rabatti - 23, Italy (U21), bought from Genk (Belgian First Division A) for £850k - P32, G 1, MotM 6, AvR 7.47
14. Richard Friar - Co-captain - 25, England (6), £6.75m - P 39, A 1, MotM 4, AvR 7.15
6. Volker Kirn - 28, Germany (18), £5.5m - P 21(1), AvR 7.09
25. Frank Larsen - 25, Denmark (11), £3.9m - P 10, MotM, AvR 7.30
21. Elliot Burley - 31, England (5), sold to Torino (Serie A) for £500k - P 14(1), A 1, MotM 2, 7.27
+ Aleksandrowicz, Domingos, R.d.Souza, R.S.d.Souza

What a breakout season for Rabatti! (Profile) Needing pace against Liverpool, I picked him from the reserves to make his debut in the lion's den of New Anfield. He had been saying he was too good for a loan and was struggling to adapt to England, so I gave him enough rope to hang himself in a game with nothing to lose. Instead, he produced a solid performance in a draw and never lost his spot. He became the highest-rated player in the league.

Friar made an uncharacteristic 12 mistakes, but his incredible pace (19 Pace, 17 Acceleration) is important especially for home games, and he'll continue to mature.

If Kirn had Friar's pace, he'd start every game as he's usually error free. Even his 1 red card was a professional foul ala Solskjaer v Newcastle.

Larsen's done little wrong, but the quality of competition is so high and there's a large handful of youngsters who could fill in at any time, so he has to go.

Burley was failing to complete a lot of tackles and his would be let go for free at the end of the season anyway, so Torino bought him at 1/3rd of his value.

First Team - Friar, Kirn, Rabatti
Backup - R.d.Souza, R.S.d.Souza
Out - Aleksandrowicz, Burley, Domginos (return from loan), Larsen
Youth Promotion - Gianello, Spinelli, Toma


DM

16. Sebastian Muller - DM/MC - 26, Germany (3 in 18), £13m - P 44, G 11, A 7, MotM 5, AvR 7.07
4. Bartosz Aleksandrowicz - D/MR, DC, DM/MC - 27, Poland (1 in 36), £4.7m - P 16(7), A 1, AvR 6.74
+ Hristov, R.d.Souza

Muller is arguably are most important player. When the strikers are missing, he steps up and scores a free-kick, or knows where to place an indirect one to assist. In fact, any time there's a foul in or around the 'D', it's a guaranteed goal. He's the only player in my 24-year career that I've given free reign to shoot anywhere he wants. He's actually better off shooting than passing! (Though he's made 2,228 passes too!)

Aleksandrowicz was disappointing. While he's been decent before, the problem is he's not a creative player, and now everyone but the goalkeeper and centre-backs needs to be able score and assist. His lack of strength is an important weakness. With youngsters and potential transfers incoming, his time has come.

Much is expected of Giménez but he hasn't shown it yet. Now he must deliver.

First Team - Muller
Backup - Hristov, R.d.Souza
Out - Aleksandrowicz
Youth Promotion - Gianello, Giménez


MC (+ MR / ML / AMC)

8. Ivan Hristov - D/WB/MR, DM/MC - 29, Bulgaria (1 in 30), £6.75m - P 38(3), G 4, A 10, MotM 3, AvR 7.27
15. (Rodrigo de) Souza - DRLC/DM/MRLC - 24, Germany (7) / £15m - P 43(7), G 7, A 4, MotM 4, AvR 7.24
11. Andy Casey - M/AML - 24, England (1), £11.75m - P 36(4), G 4, A 6, AvR 7.13
24. Reginald Tsotetsi - MC/AMC - 25, South Africa (2 in 19), £6.5m - P 25(3), G 3, A 5, MotM 2, AvR 7.04
13. Luis Roberto Artime - MC/AMC - 25, Spain (7), £5.25m - P 15(16), A 4, AvR 6.77
27. Nikola Obradovic - M/AMR - 28, Serbia (2 in 20), £4.4m, loan from Bayern Munich (Bundesliga) - P 5(4), G 1, A 1, AvR 6.44
27. Hugo - M/AML, MC, AMC - 20, Brazilian (U21), bought from Feirense (Portuguese second tier) for 600K
+ Aleksandrowicz, McIntosh, Muller, Popovic, Vezir, Viveros

Hristov's injury seemed to coincide with a relatively poor spell of form for the club. He was a presence to fear on the right of the midfield 3.

It's hard to tell Souza's best position. One game he's running things in the centre, the next he's running down the flank into the area to score the only goal.

As a left winger not getting any games, Casey seemed doomed to a quiet season in a World Cup year (as hosts to boot!), but he eventually got his chance on the left of the 3 and established himself. He scored a few amazing goals, but the standard is so high at this club now that he could still do a bit more...

Artime is another player with huge potential, he's usually given a 'free role', but now has to prove it. A broken leg in the final game of the season means he definitely won't be moved on yet.

Hugo was tried, but the youngster isn't quality enough, so he went out on loan.

First Team - Casey, Hristov, Muller, R.d.Souza
Rotation - Artime, Popovic, Tsotetsi, Vezir, Viveros
Out -
Aleksandrowicz, McIntosh, Obradovic (return from loan)
Youth Promotion - Gianello, Giménez


ST

10. Willian - 25, Brazil (3 in 6), bought from Hertha Berlin (Bundesliga) for £25m - P 32(4), G 13, A 8, MotM 7, AvR 7.31
9. Neil Sibiya - 26, South Africa (27 in 32), £32m - P 35(9), G 14, A 6, MotM 1, AvR 7.02
18. Kenny Reilly - 28, Scotland (11 in 32), £15m - P 19(8), G 11, A 3, MotM 2, AvR 7.04
23. Predrag Popovic - AMC/ST - 24, Serbia (1 in 8), £6.25m - P 13(21), G 4, A 1, MotM 1, AvR 7.09
19. Jan Krpec - 25, Czech Republic (2 in 12), £6m - P 13(18), G 3, MotM 1, AvR 6.48
20. Júnior - 31, Brazil (2), N/A - P 11(14), G 4, A 5, MotM 2, AvR 6.80

People thought I was mad to spend £25m on a striker who hadn't scored in 47 games... but Willian scored in his first 4 games and won Goal of the Month. Another season, another star striker.

Reilly gets injuries and knocks all the time, but also scores within a few minutes of returning all the time too! In fact, he either scored or assisted in all of his first 10 starts, stretching to April.

Popovic burst on the scene Rashford-like last season, but was low on goals this season. Can move around the attacking third and worth trying for another season.

Krpec greatly disappointed. His problem last season was a failure to convert, and he generally made no impact this season. Time to move on. Miguel is a pretty similar replacement, given they both provide an aerial option but may lack a world class striker's instinct.

Junior's form fell off a cliff after sharing the Golden Boot and winning Man Utd Fans' Player of the Year last season. He didn't score in the league at all and was dropped completely after the League Cup semi-final exit in January. He'll move back home to Brazil on a bosman.

First Team - Reilly, Sibiya, Willian
Backup - Popovic
Out - Junior, Krpec
Youth Promotion - De Bellis, Miguel


------------ Willian --- Reilly / Sibiya --
--------- Casey -- Souza -- Hristov ---
--------------------- Muller -----------------
Viveros -- Rabatti -- Friar -- Souza
------------------- Bondarev ---------------

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Awards

I win Manager of the Season for knocking the Geordies off their perch. Paul Ince is runner-up with Liverpool. Surprisingly, Zhou Chen of Chelsea was snubbed despite a surprise title challenge.

R.d.Souza came runner-up for English Players' Player of the Year after a 7.33 average rating in the league.

He and fellow midfielders Hristov and Muller make the Team of the Year.

Reilly came runner-up for goal of the season with his dribble and long-ranger straight from kick-off.

The top 3 for the Champions League Best Player award are all Manchester United players. New signing Willian wins it with a 7.47 average rating, while two English centre-backs come 2nd and 3rd: Friar and on-loan-at-Rangers Uberschar.

4 players make the Champions League Dream Team (Friar, Vezir, Hristov and Willian).

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With a sensational season over, it's time to enjoy watching England host the 2030 World Cup...

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2029/30 Club Football Review

Biggest Transfers

Wagner (DM/MRC/AMRC, Brazilian, 23) - São Paulo to Newcastle - £26m
Willian (ST, Brazilian, 25) - Hertha BSC to Man Utd - £25m
Martin Abraham (DM/MC, Czech, 24) - Newcastle to AC Milan - £24m
Marcin Heinrich (DC/DM/MC, Polish, 23) - Arsenal to AC Milan - £23.5m
Adel Djoudi (DC, Algerian, 26) - Chelsea to Internazionale - £22.5m
Ciro Gardin (MC, Italian, 26) - Fiorentina to Internazionale - £22.5m
Héctor Ortiz (DR/C, Mexican, 25) - Juventus to AC Milan - £22m
 

Champions League

Arsenal won their first Champions League in 17 years in one of the worst finals in recent time. Gareth Southgate's Bayern Munich lost their 2nd final in a row after drawing 0 - 0 then missing all their penalties.

England are dominating again: 3 English clubs have won 4 of the last 5 trophies (Newcastle, Man Utd, Arsenal).


England

Premier League

For the first time in 4 years, Newcastle didn't win the title. For the first time in 15 years, neither did Arsenal. Manchester United were the surprise winners.

Newcastle United's long search for Marcelino Garcia Toral's replacement ended in September with the hiring of Napoli's Polish manager Wojciech Stawowy, but they only scraped 2nd on the final day and were knocked out of the FA Cup in the 3rd Round by Championship Birmingham.

Former Liverpool player and Everton manager Paul Ince turned Liverpool into early title contenders. They fell away in the closing stages, but 5th is an improvement.

Craig Gordon's first job in management ended after a successful 3.5 years at Coventry. After being promoted from youth coach, he took the midtable side to an unprecedented 3rd place then reached the knockout round of their Champions League debut after going unbeaten in a group also containing Inter and Valencia. His replacement, Rafael Márquez, has big shoes to fill.

Stoke's fairytale return to the top league and Phil Parkinson's Sunderland's journey from top to bottom back to top saw them only last 1 season. They, along with Steve Potts' Southampton, were relegated quite early.

Football League & FA Cup

3 Championship sides reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup and, in the final, it was Queens Park Rangers that beat Arsenal on penalties to lift their first ever FA Cup trophy after gaining promotion back into the Premier League!

After getting relegated from the Premier League again, Sheffield United had a big season. They won the Championship in March with 5 games to spare, reached the FA Cup semis, and the final of the League Cup after beating future Premier League champions Manchester United with a 97th-minute winner.

On the final day of the season, several teams were in contention for the League One title and promotion. Brighton & Hove Albion won it with a draw after their rivals both lost 3 - 0, returning to the Championship after 24 years away.

In fact, had Reading scored one more and beaten Oldham 4 - 0, they would've leapfrogged Oldham on goal difference and got promoted instead!

3 teams finished on 68 points, but it was Luton Town who squeezed into the final playoff place and eventually returned to the Championship after 23 years away!


Italy

After three 0 - 0 draws in a row, Michael Skibbe's Inter Milan needed to hope Lazio didn't match their result on the final day.

Inter scored a 91st-minute winner with Lazio drawing, but Lazio scored a 94-minute winner to clinch the title in the final second of the season!


Germany

Dortmund legend Christoph Metzelder took charge of the midtable club in 2025. This season, he watched them relegated for the first time in their history (for footballing reasons anyway).


France

Patrick Vieira's managerial career has not taken off. After 16 years plying his trade in the French lower leagues, he was sacked by Créteil in just 9 months after relegating them from Ligue 2 and then leaving the club bottom of their new division by October.


Spain

Carles Puyol landed his first big job after 15 years in the 2nd and 3rd tier of Spanish football: Sevilla. 3 months later, he was lifting their first Copa del Rey since 1948, after beating Barcelona 4-1 on aggregate along the way.


The Americas

Former Aston Villa and Colombia striker Juan Pablo Angel was promoted to manager of Colombian side Atlético Nacional after 20 years as a youth coach, then left after just 1 month and 1 win in 6 matches to take charge of Argentina's Primera División side San Martín de Mendoza.

Gus Poyet finally landed a glamour job after 21 years and 8 managerial roles in Shrewsbury, Sydney and the Americas. He replaces Dominic Kinnear as boss of the LA Galaxy. Unfortunately, the 2028 MLS finalists are currently bottom of their conference with 2 wins in 12.
 

Edited by git2thachoppa

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