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Beginners' Guide to Football Manager 2021

New to FM21 or need help with starting up a save? This guide will help you walk take your first steps into Football Manager 2021.

By on Nov 11, 2020   65403 views   0 comments
Beginner's Guide - Beginners' Guide to Football Manager 2021


First off, welcome to Football Manager, FMScout and the FM Community. All of us here are glad to help you start a new journey and grow in your knowledge of football – while you may be very knowledgeable of how football works, understanding how Football Manager works and the realism of the simulation is something which can be quite difficult to grasp.

This beginners guide will help you with Football Manager 2021; setting up, walking through key areas of the game and getting a general overall view of how to navigate and manage the game.

While you may be vastly experienced in football games such as FIFA or PES, Football Manager is on a completely whole other level in terms of management simulation, if you’ve only played career mode on those two games than you will get overwhelmed quickly. Not to worry! We are here to help you and guide you through this – first things first, everything you have learned about stats, tactics, development and so on through either FIFA or PES – you need to scrap all that information.

*Tip*: There is no external help unless you download editors or scouting tools outside the game or what is offered by FM such as the in-game editor or database editor, you also cannot control the players.

For your first save we will guide you on setting up yourself as a manager, learning to navigate Football Manager, training, tactical development, playing matches, player and squad development, tackling issues, setting up goals and most importantly – learning patience.

This beginner’s guide will specifically take you to the point of being ready to deal with squads and tactics.

Setting Up Your Save

Within Football Manager there are several game modes – this guide will be going through the main and classic game mode “Career”.
  • Career is the classic Football Manager game mode which goes the most in-depth into FM. It is all offline and is the main focus of this Beginners Guide.
  • Fantasy Draft is exactly as it sounds compared to other fantasy games – you build a unique squad and play against other FM managers.
  • Online Career mode allows you to play against friends in an online league.
  • Create a Club allows you to create a club and replace an existing club.

Selecting A Club

Here you select what club you would like to take over. There are several options to start off as a manager; being a Club Manager, National Team and Club Manager or start off as Unemployed.

As this is your first or one of your first FM saves, it is highly recommended that you select a club that you are very familiar with in order to adapt quickly for your save. BUT FOR NOW, LET’S PICK A TEAM LATER.


Setting Up Your Database

Building a database is based off of several key factors – first is your computer performance. If you are playing on a laptop or older computer, it is recommended to have a smaller database, especially to get used to Football Manager.

Below in the Advanced Options section, are several check boxes which influence the setup of your save. As a beginner, it is highly recommended to have the check box of Disable Player Attribute Marking, the reason is because you may not be familiar with many players and it makes it easier to judge them.

The other option to make sure that you have unchecked is the Disable First Window Transfer Activity. This box when selected disables the ability to transfer players in the first window. The database is constructed at the end of the real-life transfer window, meaning that all clubs have already done their business. Unselecting this means that not only do you have the latest squad, but the ability to transfer players throughout the transfer window.

Note: Club budgets and player transfers are reflected very accurately – meaning that despite having the first transfer window open, you may be limited by funds. This is not FIFA nor PES, meaning it is really difficult to acquire funds from your board and you cannot “Purchase” additional funding for your save.

What Leagues to Load?

First off, it is important to load the league that you want to manage in and is recommended to at least load – if able – a tier or two below your current league. This is where it gets a little bit more in depth but going to the Approximate Player Count in the top right of your screen, clicking and selecting the Advanced… option will bring up another small window.

As this is one of your first saves, it is recommended to select several Nations. First would be Argentina and Brazil and select “Players from top clubs”. This means that there is available future newgens from those two nations. You can add and select more but be careful of your computer performance.
If you wish to add more Active Leagues, go ahead. If the mode is “Playable” it means that you will be able to manage within that league – select this for a few leagues and the rest, you can have loaded but not playable.

Once you are ready to start, at the bottom right is the Start Game button, just above it is the Game Start Date. It is highly recommended that you start in the “Early Pre-Season” phase; this means that you will have a full pre-season to set up tactics, get familiar with players and staff, also you have a full window available to you.

Now let us start your save. (This can take a while, so please be patient.)

Setting Up Your Profile

Start off by setting up your personal details; name, nationality, place of birth and favorite team or team(s). If you have social networks, you can connect them as well.

There is an “Experienced” box highlighted in this section, as you are newer to Football Manager, make sure that you select experienced to “No”. This will activate the help and aid guide from the game which will educate you in several key areas of the game.

Setting Up Your Appearance

Here you can create your avatar. Fill it out in any way that you see fit. There is also a 3D Model Generator which means that you are able to take a photo of your face (or any other for that matter) and it will generate that face onto your avatar and into the game.

Create your face and your attire then let us move onto the next step.

Now Let’s Select a Club

Now that we are set up, let’s select a club to manage. It is highly recommended based off the league you wanted to manage in, that you select a club that you are very familiar with.

There are different options, starting off with just a single team, managing both a club or international or starting off unemployed. We will just be picking a single team.

Once you have selected your club, let us move onto your “Managerial Style”.

Managerial Style

This is a very important and a bit daunting. Do not worry we will take you through this.

First off it is important that right at the very top you select the check box which says, “Suggest badge based on ---”.

Next there is the Management Style Focus – for now let’s keep it at Default. Eventually as you become more experienced and try more saves, you will discover yourself a lot more and find your personal managerial style including what your strength and weaknesses are.

You do not need to be a Goalkeeping coach unless you put yourself on that training (more on that later), so it is recommended to drop those stats down to “1” and fill out the rest of the attributes. It’s recommended that you max out Tactical and Working With Youngsters and fill out the rest as you see fit. On the “Mental Attributes” side it is best that you leave it as is.

Note: Throughout your save, your attributes on both the coaching and mental side will adjust and fluctuate based on your interactions within the squad, tactics, interactions with the media, how you handle yourself in a game and overall team performances including many other aspects. For now, you are not to worry about these things or what they influence, in time you will get an understanding on how this influences you – and how the simulation perceives you.

Let’s Start Playing the Game


Now let the fun begin, immediately you are set in a board room and a news article will pop up showing you being welcomed to your club. A brief overview of yourself, the club, your wages is the first media box.

Click Next

The chairman of your club will give you a formal welcome and displayed is the introductory welcome pack.

The top left displays the club badge and jersey, next is the Global Reputation of the club and below it what at that current point in the save the media on average predicts where you are going to finish. Next displayed are your Technical Director and Assistant Manager.

Mid-Left are the facilities; your stadium, it’s capacity and when it was built. Below that are your other facilities and the condition of those facilities. For now let’s not worry too much upon them even though they are very important.

Finally you have your club’s history, hovering your mouse over each trophy displays what competition that club has won and how many trophies they have. It then gives a brief display of where you finished the previous season (in real life) and a club background.

Click Next

This is a brief overview of the current squad. It displays what your coaching staff believe is the best XI and the personality of the squad overall. It then displays any transfer obligations (players that will be coming in or leaving which is based off real life obligations) and loan obligations (which are players in real life you have loaned in or loaned out.

Click Next

Next is an important screen. This is the Board’s Vision page and is the basis for what you are judged as a manager.

Club Culture are tasks which are important to the club and it’s heritage or “the way” of the club. The importance determines how imperative to the board it is that you follow those tasks. There are many different types and it’s important to keep them in the back of your mind.

Next is the 5-Year Plan. This is the judgement of your performances on the pitch and what the board expects. It also includes Ongoing tasks which may include certain financial restrictions or goals.

As this is your first save, do not worry too much and focus more on becoming familiar with Football Manager. This is also always accessible in the save so no need to worry about remembering every detail.

Click Next

Next is the Induction Schedule. For now, there is no need to worry about this, just click Next.

Click Next

This is the arrangement screen. There is the option to handle the media, have an intra-squad friendly and send advice on backroom staff. It is recommended that you say yes to all three. Even though press-conferences are very annoying and can become boring, your first conference is important and if not taken, the board can react negatively to you despite just being hired. So, for now just say yes and click confirm.

Click Confirm

Save Your Game

Now we are in the game. First, it’s important to save. So, name your save according to your liking and find a place to save the game, the default setup is highly recommended for now.

Note: This can take some time so please be patient.


Now the fun begins. This page that you are on is the one that you will see the most often – it is your Inbox. This is all a bit daunting and it is a tad difficult to navigate as this is your first time but not to worry, eventually you will get the hang of all of this.

To start off, take your time to navigate the sections on the side bar. As you can see you are on your Inbox section which is currently loaded with multiple emails. For now take a bit of time to explore.

The tabs are divided up into several sections.
  • At the top is your “Home” page. This is a general overview of your club. You can see the next match and where it takes place, league table, match preparation, injury news, upcoming fixtures, injuries and training performance. Again, this is a general overview. Here you will also see this is where your personal information is – you can see “sub tabs” such as “My Profile” and so on.
  • Next is your Inbox which is self-explanatory.
  • Then you have your “First Team Tabs” as I like to call them. This is everything to do with your first team. So you can see the “Squad” and the “Dynamics” of your squad. There are also Tactics which you will set up and make your team train and play. There are “Team Reports”, “Staff”, “Training” and the “Medical Centre” which hosts injury or potential injury information on players.
  • The next bit is “Season Information Tabs” which is your schedule and the competitions you are participating in.
  • Next is “Player Transfer Tabs”. Here you see “Scouting” where you have your scouting network and finding players either in general or to your specifications. You also have the “Transfer” tabs which holds all transfers both in and out of the club – there you would see negotiations with other clubs and players.
  • The next portion is “Club Tabs”. Here you see information about your club, “Club Vision” which is the vision of the board and what you are judged upon, and “Finances” which incorporates all finances of your club and the health of your club in that manner. Within this section is where you can “Talk” to your board – for now do not worry about this.
  • Finally, is the “Development Centre” which entails all of the youth football related to your club. So your U23, U19 or U18 depending on your club and league you are playing in. Here you will see upcoming promising talents within those squads and other players and their potential futures.

Back to the Inbox

The first several messages your receive in your Inbox are basic overviews which link to what is happening at the club and what you want to do as the new manager. The first note is a news article which shows that you have taken over the club.

Next you will receive a “Tactics Introduction” email. Here you will select your tactic(s) to set your team up in. Since you’ve selected No Experience earlier in the setup, here FM will take you on a quick tactics guide.

Another message provides you with the Club vision and expectations meeting. Rather then negotiate with the board, for now just accept the Current Vision and move on as you are still new to this whole process.

Further messages give you overviews of the club; Pre-season preparation, fitness report, squad selection rules for your league in-particular, what has happened (in real life), introduction summary and your meeting with the press.

There are two key things to focus on, your press conference and the introductory advice summary. In the press conference it will be your first experience in dealing with the media and the start of the simulation – here your choices do matter and can potentially influence how you are perceived, the attitude of the players and your reputation within the game. Enjoy it, be calm and be positive.

Next is the Advice Summary, here your Assistant Manager will give you a report, making recommendations on current players and what he/she thinks should be their roles within the club. This includes suitable captaincy’s, free-kick takers, corner takers, and advice on some tactics or players recommended in certain roles. If you wish to apply some of the advice you can see the apply column on the far right to approve of the recommendation.

Continuing On

This completes the basic setup into the game. If there are the Induction screens popping up, please take the time to view them as FM will guide you through and highlight key components within each induction. If you have further questions or want the induction again - on the top right of the screen next to the FM icon is a “Question Mark” – click it and the induction will replay once more.

The beginner’s guide ends here. Squad, tactics and other guides can be found on our website FMScout or on our Youtube channel. If you have any questions, on our website you are able to pose questions in the forums or into the chat and have help from one of our moderators or other people on the site to guide you through the game.

Have fun with your save!

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