City of Men – NineFebruary 4, 2020
We’ve plotted our course into the UEFA Europa League final against Tottenham Hotspur after winning 1-0 on the night to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena for a 2-1 aggregate victory. Admittedly, though – this is only the icing on the cake as we chase an unprecedented domestic and continental quadruple.
We steamrollered our rivals 3-0 at home in the Old Firm that truly mattered. This was absolutely must win as we’ve now moved five points ahead at the top of the table following an exciting dogfight to claim national supremacy. When you dismantle a team possessing the quality that Celtic have, with seven or eight academy graduates [HGC] in the starting lineup, you know the kids are alright.
Another victory in the Scottish Cup Old Firm seen us slay our old foes 2-1 as we advanced to the semi-final stage. With Celtic already dispatched from the competition it’s now ours to lose.
On to Europe, then.
Matches against Shakhtar Donetsk, followed by a really talented Eintracht Frankfurt outfit [the place where my family and I now reside. From Glasgow via Amsterdam] featuring Phillip Max, Ante Rebić and Dejan Joveljić in the round of sixteen.
Then came Internazionale Milan. How would our boys fare against a multi-talented side with Gabigol and Romelu Lukaku up front? 5-0 in Glasgow!! That’s what our vibrant young team thought of the Nerazzuri.
Every single player raised their game for a spine-tingling night inside a raucous Ibrox Stadium under the lights. An electrifying performance with no fewer than eight academy players in the starting eleven.
Something certainly worth crediting is our young Scottish central midfield trio.
As we headed into February, I made some subtle alterations to our tactical setup.
FIXED: Some permanent tactical changes.
Switched our two inside roles and mentalities. Josh McPake is more suited to playing the role of forward – cutting in from that left side. Granted there’s no a huge difference in ability to play both roles – I just felt by switching Glenn Middleton to an inside-winger on the right side it would better suit the balance of the side. I also changed the more safety-minded box-to-box midfielder and, although he will get forward on occasion to support play as instructed – we require a role with more creative attacking intent. Mezzala on attack is wielding top performances with Lewis Ferguson finding room to work the half-space channels, creating goals scoring opportunities and even contributing with goals himself from central midfield. I did wonder if the mezzala would be working in similar areas as our inside-winger but, everything appears to be functioning as intended.
EUROPE: Tactical changes applied in tough European matches.
For the big European fixtures, we’ve been going at the opposition using an aggressive high tempo. We’re simply not as technically gifted as the majority of teams we’ll face in the latter stages of European competitions. However, where we may be lacking in top level ability – this Rangers side makes up for it with strong unity and togetherness. With the right blend of training and tactical guidance we’ve progressed beyond recognition.
Two goals to zero in the return leg at the San Siro meant we’d already done the business in Glasgow. We cruise into the semi-finals. 5-2 on aggregate.
Nathan Patterson’s development is my pride and joy within the save thus far. It’s great to see the fruits of your labor when a player valued at £5k and seemingly going nowhere, develops into a £4m rated Scotland international, playing in high pressure European matches for Rangers.
The might of Bayern Munich awaited us in the semi-finals. The Bavarian super-club starting an almost identical first eleven to the one which took to the field during the 2019/20 campaign. Robert Lewandowski earns more in one working week than our entire team. Just to put things firmly into perspective.
The first leg in Glasgow would see the Munich giants dominate proceedings as expected – finally grabbing that all important away goal with around thirty minutes to play. All was lost until a rocket of a strike from Glenn Middleton restored a glimmer of hope in the fourth minute of stoppage time. I still rated our chances as slim at best.
For the return fixture in Germany I moved the mezzala on attack to a box-to-box midfielder on support duty. Like we said before – this role will support when he can but, it’s not always his main focus as he has other jobs to do like, defend and provide a conduit between both boxes.
Stunned!!! Genuinely stunned..!!!!
The boys shock the formidable Bayern Munich on their own patch. This is up there with the most satisfaction I’ve had from a result in Football Manager. It’s always fun to build a team in your tactical image and, I did so on FM18 and FM19 with AS Saint-Étienne and Newcastle United respectively, however, to piece together a setup that I enjoy whilst predominantly using kids from within the academy structure at my club, Rangers. Well, this is something more. This is extra special indeed. To reach such heights with these youngsters after only three seasons therefor reinforces the notion that this crop of players currently at Rangers in the real world have serious potential that’s waiting to be unlocked. That’s precisely what we’ve achieved with this save game.
The narrative inside my head is moving along nicely with the little addition of Alexis Sanchez who’s come in and had a part to play during Rafael Santos Borré’s injury layoff. I’ve loved managing Alexis and giving the fans something special after we failed to bring Alfie [Alfredo Morelos] back to Govan for a second spell.
I’ll be sticking strictly to the remit, so there will only be one or two signings that I feel could be required if we spot value accompanied by the right player ID. I’m already pursuing a deal for Oliver McBurnie who’s now at Nottingham Forest after his time with Sheffield United – where he joined Chris Wilder’s side for a massive £20m!!. The towering forward is seemingly available for a paltry £1.8m. I’ve been looking at incorporating a more robust 4-4-2 system for certain scenarios and McBurnie fits the bill of target man in a forward two. Other than McBurnie, who also happens to be a Rangers supporter himself – I will only look to bolster the academy ranks by bringing in some new youth prospects. I never take a scattergun approach to recruitment. Each position that is left vacant when we promote to the senior side must be replaced with someone we hope will then mature and progress – making their own journey to the Rangers first team.
So, there we are, then. Well – not quite.
I wanted to capture my feelings at a moment when I gained so much satisfaction from the game; getting things down in the blog as I was simply excited by what had just unfolded within my save.
That’s what it’s for, right?
At the time of writing I’m still excited to finish the season. A campaign that has the potential to be one of the best in the history of this great British institution. 150 years of Glasgow Rangers and what a year to celebrate the anniversary if we could secure the quadruple. The League Cup is already in the trophy cabinet, but there’s still three to pay for.