Using symetrics like Sir Alex Ferguson did with Man Utd during season 2012/2013

Manchester United has been a club who dominated the English and European football for quite some time. The results Sir Alex Ferguson managed to get with the Red Devils are unbelievable. Loads of managers have tried but i doubt that they will ever be as successful as SAF was with his United. During the 2012/2013 season SAF used a few different tactics where he introduced symetrics. After reading about this and the thoughts and vision behind these tactics it was time for me to translate this into Football Manager 2016. After some intensive testing i managed to find a tactic where i use symetrics and i also dominated the Premier League very hard. The keyword for this tactic is movement. My players need to move, wander into (free) space where they can be found by their teammates and from where they can become dangerous. Furthermore every player has his own part to play in this tactic and if they fail the tactic will fail. This is a tactic which will give you a lot of ball possession and it provides solid goalscoring opportunities. You strikers need to be sharp though because the chances you get should count at all times.

The setup

Goalkeeper: He is there to make sure the opponent doesn’t score goals. He is also there to pass the ball to the central defenders so your team can build up from the back.

Central defenders: They need to stop the opponent from becoming dangerous. It is very clear that that has to be their main priority. The second important thing they need to do is to build up from the back. So the following attributes are quite important: passing, positioning, technique, concentration, determination and decissions.

Right back: This attacking fullback needs to overlap the midfield to provide crosses into the area. He also needs to keep an eye on his defensive responsibilities.

Left back: This defensive minded wing back will stay deep but will still cross the ball in space when he gets the chance. He also provides an extra passing options for especially the midfielders and defenders.

Regista: He needs to dictate the play from deep positions. He is the creative outlet behind the attacking line who seeks to maintain intense pressure by constantly looking for new chances for his more advances teammates (attackers).

Central midfielder: He is the versatile link between the defence and your attack. I gave this position the player instruction to hold position. I have enough players that create movement and i need this midfielder to make sure their is balance between our defensive and attacking lines. He is allowed to wander a bit but not too much.

Wide playmaker: The wide playmaker will drift into space from which he will try to play killer balls and to create chances. Defensively he will provide cover for the fullback but he is not expected to make too many tackles. His defensive strenght should come from his positioning and therefore that is the main attribute for any player who wants to fulfill this role.

Attacking midfielder: He will try to craft out chances for his teammates alongside being a presence in the box to supplement the attack. He should move into spaces which our striker creates when he drops out from his position.

Inside forward: He will run directly at the enemy defence with the options of shooting, passing or crossing. As we use a false nine he can also move into the space which is created once our striker drops from his position.

False nine: He will drop deep and then the opponents defenders must make a choice. Either they follow him which creates space for our players or they let him go and then he can become dangerous himself.

Team instructions


The team instructions speak for themselves. I want my players to roam from their positions so they can find space from where they can be usefull for the team. I want to build up my attacks from the back so i chose Play Out Of Defence. We close our opponents down more to keep them under pressure hoping that they will make errors. At least we try to shorten the time they have on the ball so we will have the ball back quicker. Work ball into Box andLower tempo will make sure that we patiently move towards the enemy box. Stay on feet is also very logic, i don’t want my players to take themselves out with a badly timed tackle. Instead they need to stay on their feet when tackling the opponent. I have chosen Control as a mentality and fluid as a team shape. This way my players will have the freedom to be creative because i am very aware of the fact that we need to rely on key passes and individual actions from my players to score goals. Against opponents who tighten up i will use higher tempo as i want my team to look for more depth in our game and to play their defensive wall apart.


Just a few results .. don’t have the old (bigger) screenshot anymore:





To make this tactic work i need a lot of movement. My players need to be able to identify the best passing option once they get the ball themselves. By moving at the right time into the right space we should be able to breakdown any defence and score goals. But hard work is how i remember English football above anything else!


Here you can find the article that inspired me to write/think about symetrical tactics.



deibiddo · March 19, 2016 at 3:22 am

I’ll probably sound overly critic but the only thing you mentioned about symmetrics was that you read about it and studied it. All the article is around a tactic, with an explanation for the roles and crucial attributes and the instructions.

I have some questions, if you don’t mind. What is ‘symmetrics’ in football? What are the features of symmetrics and what where the advantages against other English teams? How did Alex Ferguson set up his squad in order to fullfill that vision? Finally, how do the roles chosen for the tactic play with each other in order to reproduce somewhat the style of play of the Manchester United team of 12/13? Give some examples, please.

    thefmveteran · March 19, 2016 at 7:51 am

    I can relate to your questions and your critique. At the moment i am very busy but i will try to create another post about symetrics. Short piece of information:

    Season 2012/2013 was the season for SAF where he realised 442 was outdated so he created a new 4321 tactic. Within this tactic there where a lot of diamond shapes, as can be found in my tactic but i created a 4231 as it suited my players better. So the biggest change for Man Utd at that time was that the team was now less reliant upon an implemented system of play. Instead the approach was more a loose playing style and a flexible formation that offers different solutions to any number of problems. If you translate this to Football Manager and my tactic you can see that most players either create space for teammates or they create movement/passing options.

    Once i have more time i will try to create an article which goes deeper into symetrics and what is and isn’t possible within Football Manager with this type of playing style.

      deibiddo · March 19, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      I see where you’re getting at. One thing you could do for now is to cite some references in the article. Perhaps you read an article somewhere that analyses the Manchester United squad of 12/13, or an analysis of a specific game of that season. It would enrich your piece without necessarily adding too many words.

      thefmveteran · March 19, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      Just added the article which inspired me to write/think about symetrics in FM.

PeeDub · March 23, 2016 at 5:27 pm

Being potentially pedantic here, but do you mean *a*symmetrics? Or is this literally what people call this?

Leave a Reply