Football Manager 2014: An Old Dog With Plenty Of New Tricks

The chaps at Sports Interactive are back to take all your free time and ruin your relationships with Football Manager 2014. And funnily enough, this time they’ve taken a leaf out of Fergie’s book…
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The chaps at Sports Interactive are back to take all your free time and ruin your relationships with Football Manager 2014. And funnily enough, this time they’ve taken a leaf out of Fergie’s book…

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I’m midway through the January transfer window in my inaugural season at Manchester United and I’ve hit a snag. Although changing to 3-5-2 to get the best out of Kagawa, Rooney and Van Persie is paying dividends, an early firesale of Anderson, Nani and Ashley Young has left my squad somewhat threadbare as the fixture list begins to pile up. After a hard fought 2-0 win over Southampton in the FA Cup, I sit down for a post match press conference to only to have it sidetracked by a conversation over the patchy form of Rafael. A FourFourTwo journalist asks me if Rafael is off the pace due to transfer attention from Barcelona. I calmly deflect the question. A World Soccer writer asks if a potential deal involving Cristian Tello coming the other way could be on the cards. I politely ask for the press to not talk about transfer dealings. A BBC writer asks if I have any interest in dealing with Martino this transfer window. I snap. I call the press a bunch of morons and Martino and his boys mob of crooks out to unsettle my players. I awake the next day to find 16 (SIXTEEN) of my players have dropped in morale and the newspapers calling me rude and paranoid over succeeding Fergie.

Football Manager is back. The boys at Sports Interactive have been hard at work tinkering, tweaking and making a whole host of changes to the previous iteration to make an altogether interesting game that proves you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Much like Sir Alex in his latter managerial years, Football Manager 2014 has a less of a focus on meticulous planning and more on situational intelligence. The big change to FM 2014 is the removal of tactical sliders. Having been slowly phased out in previous games, in 2014 your “short-mixed-long-direct” slider for your team’s passing style and his cousins have been removed completely. FM 2014 boasts a more streamlined system where if you want to make a tactical change, you simply command your team to “Play Wider” or “Defend Deeper”. It’s a change to the game that is sure to split some fan opinion and may take some getting used to, but I for one enjoy it. Its direct, easy to get to grips with and yet somehow still allows you a whole host of new tactical opportunities. It also goes some way to eliminate that nagging feeling that for all of your tactical tinkering and sliding, sometimes it was impossible to turn a 2-0 home loss around if you got your pre-match tactics wrong.

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Call it accident or design, but this is also one of the more interesting Football Manager games to start off from the bat with. Financial Fair Play has been included for the first time  - torpedoing your average “use Manchester City and buy everyone” Easy Mode Football Manager player while making managing Monaco a race to get into the later stages of the Champions League. Three of the English Top Four are in “transition years” and elsewhere, Coventry, Wolves, Palermo, Portsmouth and Mönchengladbach offer unique footballing challenges for your armchair manager.

There are some problems of course; Goalkeepers (at the time of writing) are incapable of passing the ball short to your defenders, even with specific instructions to team and player to do so – making taking charge of a short front line such as Barcelona’s infuriating at times.  Classic mode, the stripped down FM experience that plays similar to Championship Manager 01/02, while improved, still favours a quick fling with a big club rather than a lengthy spell trying to get back to back promotions. Press, player and staff conversations, while immersive, eventually grow dull and downright bizarre when you get deep enough the rabbit hole. The Football Manager as a series has a “Challenge Mode” where you start off with a random event, such as a massed injury crisis; I’d love to see some scenarios just pop up in the full fat game. Imagine, your Football Manager career coming a cropper because Jose Mourinho started making the eyes at your chairman.

But that’s one of the joys of Football Manager 2014; half of these problems only appear once you’ve spent over 100+ hours down that rabbit hole. FM remains as deep and addictive as ever. FM 2014 boasts enough changes and improvements to make it both a worthwhile purchase both for long term fans and those looking for a point to jump in and make a return to the series. Long time FM fans have long traded “their FM stories” where they don a suit for a cup final, make a passionate speech to their laptop and get teary eyed as their unknown hastily promoted academy prospect makes a match winning assist. Football Manager 2014, while still just short of perfect is still the premier managerial game and replicates the joy of taking a team from disaster to triumph more so than ANY football game out there. Pick it up and watch all your free time melt away.

Football Manager 2014 is out now

Enjoy, share, comment and criticise. And if you want to be meaner than the comments below will allow, here’s Carl Anka’s Twitter….

This story originally featured on SharperLiving