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Football Manager 2020 is FREE to play – here are the best hints and the tips you need to smash it

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They say the best things in life are free. And this week, that’s 100% true.

You might be cooped up inside avoiding coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still pretend that the football is on. The good guys at Football Manager have put the latest game online to play absolutely free for a week. The offer runs out Wednesday, 25 March – so you need to start playing quickly, and get off to the best possible start to make the most of it.

We know that Football Manager 2020 is the best way to simulate the rest of the season, so check out our hacks for turning yourself from a rookie coach to a world-class manager.

Pick your team

You probably chose whichever club you support based on where you grew up or who your dad supports. Picking a side to manage in Football Manager is considerably more difficult.

There are plenty of clubs that offer different kinds of challenges. Trying to restore the glory days of Bolton Wanderers, for example, is a world away from trying to break the Benfica/Porto stranglehold with Sporting. It’s best to have an in-depth look at the players you’ll inherit, the budget you’ll be given and work out what exactly you’re looking to achieve in your tenure.

FOR MORE: Football Manager 2020: 12 teams we can’t wait to be

Consider your club’s identity

Arsene Wenger, Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, John Carver. The very greatest coaches in the modern game have a vision for what they want to achieve. Why should you be any different?

One of the exciting new aspects of FM20 is the club vision feature. Now, you actually get some kind of credit for playing that expansive positional play that you’ve been pioneering on the game for years. It also makes the game a lot more realistic - so when you’re laying down the foundations of your empire, remember to take the club’s existing culture into account.

Sign some wonderkids

In the real world, the benefits of signing young, exciting talent are obvious. They’re often cheaper than experienced internationals, command lower wages and if you sign them up to a long contract, you can get their prime years before selling them on for a profit.

The same applies in Football Manager. There are plenty under-21s ripe for introducing into your side - don’t you want to be the one to unlock the potential of the next Ronaldo?

FOR MORE: Football Manager 2020 wonderkids: the best young players to sign

Make your players more versatility

You know the scenario. You’re 1-0 up, away to Manchester City with half an hour on the clock. Your left-back lunges into a tackle and gets a second - and somewhat undeserved - red card. With no back-up left-back on the bench - since your first choice is often so reliable - you’re forced to play someone else out of position.

Retraining players in other roles is easy to do, using the training tab. It’s great in an injury crisis, if you’re in a bit of a jam mid-game, or even if you just think Dayot Upamecano would make a hell of a box-to-box midfielder.

Use free signings to your advantage

From Sol Campbell right through to James Milner, free signings have always been a football club’s friend. Given the extortionate money that gets pinged from one PayPal account to another these days, there’s nothing that shows you to be a shrewder boss than taking advantage of a Bosman.

One of your first jobs every transfer window should be to keep a lookout for whose contract is expiring. It might save you a lot of money on a player you wanted anyway - or you might just want to sell them on in a season or two.

FOR MORE: Football Manager 2020: the 15 best free transfers

Use your academy

Long-term thinking is key if you want to keep being successful. It’s not just about fixing your team as and when you face problems but planning for the future. Think Klopp, not Mourinho.

The youth infrastructure at your club is key. You can improve the facilities, upgrade your youth scouts and even sign a head of youth development, which will all keep your team ticking over for years to come. 

Listen to your backroom staff

There’s no “I” in “team”, but there is in “assistant”. In FM20, there are even more roles for your backroom staff - so remember that you can’t do everything and that it’s part of your job to delegate. 

Loan managers, assistants, youth coaches and the newly-added Technical Director can help you to manage the squad a little better, and it’s worth taking their advice onboard. After all, they are controlled by the computer.

Download the database app

Football Manager. It’s all a bit full-on, isn’t it? 

What began as a simple mirror to the world of picking an XI has become an in-depth, realistic simulation of the ins and outs of the most stressful job in football. Luckily, the companion app - FMdb - can help you. It can give you the stats on players you’re thinking of signing, and you can use it from your phone, so no need to switch between screens.

While you’re here, why not take advantage of our brilliant subscribers’ offer? Get the game’s greatest stories and best journalism direct to your door for only £12.25 every three months – less than £3.80 per issue – and you’ll also receive bookazines worth £29.97!

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