As football fans we’re always looking back on the good times; the moments that made us laugh and cry and the moments we’ll either never forget or do our best to wipe from our memories forever.
But what about the future? What do we have to look forward to? Can we get excited about what’s to come or should we continue to yearn for yesteryear?
As part of our Premier League 25 years celebration this season, we’ve decided to boot up our copy of Football Manager 2018 and simulate 25 years into the future to see what exactly we’ve got to look forward to. And without wanting to wish our lives away, we’re in for a real treat if this is what the future holds.
With one season per article, we’re looking 25 years in to the future. Below we take a look at the 2022/23 campaign…
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, having just won their fourth consecutive Premier League title, splash out almost £160m in the summer and follow that up with another £60m spend in January.
United’s biggest summer arrival is Monaco’s Andre Silva, who returns to the Premier League after a year away – the Portuguese scored 56 goals in 100 league appearances for Arsenal before leaving for France – in a deal worth an initial £82m.
There aren’t many high profile departures from Old Trafford, other than Simone Zaza joining AC Milan on loan and Eric Bailly switching Manchester for China in a £29m deal with Huaxia Xingfu. Jesse Lingard joins Leicester for just £11m.
In January, Leon Goretzka joins from West Ham for almost £60m as the Hammers make a healthy profit on German midfielder they signed on a free just 18 months earlier.
Man City sign Italian wonderkid Ciro Milella from Napoli for £46m and then follow that up with the £45m capture of Juventus’ Moise Kean. A 32-year-old Marcos Alonso also arrives at the Etihad on a free transfer before being sold to Bordeaux in January for almost £7m – shrewd.
Elsewhere, Arsenal continue to be shrewd in the transfer market by bringing in ageing midfielders Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ander Herrera on free transfers, before selling Herrera to West Ham in January for just £2.2m. The Gunners’ biggest signings are 21-year-old France wonderkid Mateo Henry for £34.5m and Liverpool’s Naby Keita for £23m.
Tottenham spend just £66m as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Luke Shaw both arrive on free transfers and Ajax wonderkid Eljero Profijt signs in a £30m deal. Keiran Trippier and Davinson Sanchez join West Brom in a double deal worth just short of £12m. Shaw is sent to Watford on loan in January.
Released Chelsea midfielder Willian signs for Liverpool on a free as the Reds attempt to find a way back into Europe with the right recruitment. £81m is spent on eight players, Michy Batshuayi being the surprise signing of them all as he returns to the Premier League from Shakhtar in a deal worth £26m.
There’s lots of upheaval at Chelsea, too. Barcelona take N’Golo Kante off their hands for just £26.5m while Lucas Digne and Shkodran Mustafi are the most recognisable names arriving at Stamford Bridge. Gerard Deulofeu, released by Arsenal, signs on a Bosman.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, it’s newly promoted Blackburn Rovers who are the busiest in the transfer market by bringing in no less than 20 players across both transfer windows – the most recognisable names being Aleksandar Mitrovic (free), Matty James (£1m), Tyias Browning (£4.5m), Jack Stephens (£1.2m) and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (£5m).
Southampton surprise everyone when they spend almost £4m on bringing Christian Benteke back to England from Napoli while Alex Iwobi’s £13m switch from Arsenal to West Ham is seen by many as one of the shrewdest transfers of the window.
Ross Barkley joins West Brom for just £2.2m as the Premier League mourns yet another promising English youngster failing to live up to his potential.
Elsewhere in Europe, PSG continue their mega spending with a £238m outlay on nine players, but they do decide to sell goalkeeper Paterne Bembo-Leta to Monaco for a world-record fee for a goalkeeper – £139m.
The most talked about deal across the continent, though, involves the most exciting young striker in Europe – Frederico Caramelo – as Real Madrid bring him to the Bernabeu from Benfica in a deal worth just £34.5m.
Manchester remains Red as Mourinho guides United to an unprecedented fifth consecutive Premier League title. This one isn’t as easy as the previous ones though, as Chelsea and Man City do give them a bit of a title race. United still, however, win it by four points.
Chelsea come in as runners-up while Man City have to settle for third, but it’s Liverpool who suffer once again as they finish eighth – amazingly, the Reds go on to win the Europa League to secure their place in next season’s Champions League regardless. Mission accomplished.
Arsenal pip Spurs to fourth and Tottenham are forced to settle for another season in the Europa League.
Everton and Leicester both secure Europa League football after much improved seasons, and Bournemouth continue to solidify their rise to mid-table mainstays with a 9th placed finish.
Down at the other end, Blackburn are the only newly-promoted side to avoid relegation despite their strange scatter gun approach to the transfer market. Brighton join Reading and QPR in the bottom three.
Incredibly, the title race did go down to the final day of the season this time. Chelsea had a chance to leapfrog United on the final day, but only if they could register a victory at Old Trafford and ruin the party. Jose Mourinho, as ever, had other ideas…
It’s fair to say Chelsea bottled it – they failed to win games against Man City and Watford before they needed a win at Old Trafford to secure the title.
Tottenham also had their chance to put one over their rivals as a final day win away at Everton would’ve been enough to secure 4th ahead of Arsenal, but they did what Spurs do best and bottled it, losing 1-0 at Goodison Park as Arsenal ran out 5-1 winners at home to West Brom.
Unfortunately the survival race didn’t go down to the final day despite Stoke losing all of their final five league games of the season. Brighton managed to win their last game but a late 1-0 defeat to Leicester on the penultimate weekend sealed their fate a week early.
Rock bottom QPR managed to win just five games all season and looked destined for the drop for most of the campaign, having managed to pick up just five points between the end of January and the rest of the season.
Here’s how the season looked as far as team records are concerned…
It was a low scoring competition for the Golden Boot but it was eventually won by Chelsea’s Andrea Belotti, with 19. Harry Kane netted just 17 league goals all season, taking him to 182 career Premier League goals – hopes of breaking Alan Shearer’s record are fading away.
However, 22-year-old Man City striker Pietro Pellegri is fast becoming the next striker tipped to break Shearer’s long-standing 260 milestone. His 16 league goals took him to 56 in just 83 Premier League appearances for City.
Former Arsenal goal machine Andre Silva enjoyed a solid debut season at Old Trafford with 15 goals in 30 league appearances.
The Golden Glove went to Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtios with 20 clean sheets and just 29 goals conceded – very harsh that he didn’t come away with a Premier League winner’s medal.
The assists chart is topped by Arsenal’s Federico Chiesa with 18, four ahead of Blackburn’s Conor Hourihane.
The Player of the Year Award is handed to Eden Hazard for the second time in the Belgian’s career – he ended the season with 11 goals and 11 assists but failed to help the Blues win the title – ending Paulo Dybala’s three-year domination of the award.
Man City’s Moise Kean is voted Young Player of the Year following a very impressive debut season in England – 13 goals and four assists for the Italian.
Manager of the Year is, of course, Jose Mourinho – the seventh time he’s won the award. Just four more to overtake Sir Alex Ferguson!
A lot of the usual suspects make the Team of the Year but it’s not as much of an all-Manchester affair like previous seasons. Dele Alli is the only Tottenham representative but Paul Pogba, Eric Dier, Daniele Rugani, Paulo Dybala, Eden Hazard and Toby Alderweireld all make the XI for the second consecutive season.
Six teams decide to change managers during the season, the first coming at Anfield as Viktor Goncharenko is punished for overseeing Liverpool’s poor start to the season – just three wins between August and November – and replaced by Southampton’s Jorge Jesus at the beginning of December, despite the Saints sacking him on the same day for the exact same reason.
Liverpool opt to appoint Watford’s Didier Deschamps two weeks later, while West Brom run out of patience with Tim Sherwood and hand him his P45 just a week before Christmas. Roberto Mancini replaces him at the Hawthorns.
Paul Heckingbottom leaves QPR for Watford, and is replaced by Sheffield Wednesday’s Carlos Carvalhal at Loftus Road. Incredibly, Tim Sherwood is handed another opportunity to stay in the Premier League – Southampton bring him in.
And finally, at Stoke City, Slaven Bilic is sacked towards the end of January and is replaced by Burnley’s Paulo Ferreira.
Surely Man United can’t go on to win a sixth consecutive title? That’ll be Mourinho’s aim but he’ll no doubt have to fend off much stronger sides in Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal.
Jorge Jesus will have a job on his hands taking Liverpool back to the big time but he’ll be backed with a hefty transfer kitty, while it’ll be a challenge for Tottenham, Everton and Leicester to try and break the top four.
West Ham will be one of the sides eager to qualify for the Europa League next season after a couple of solid years in mid-table, as will Bournemouth, whose consistency at this level has impressed.
Premier League Champions: Man United
Champions League qualification: Man United, Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool
Europa League qualification: Tottenham, Everton and Leicester City
Relegated to Championship: Brighton, Reading and QPR
Promoted to Premier League: Middlesbrough, Wolves and Burnley
Community Shield Winners: Man United
FA Cup Winners: Chelsea
Carabao Cup Winners: Man City
UEFA Super Cup Winners: Man United
Club World Championship: Man United
Champions League Winners: Man United
Europa League Winners: Liverpool
It’s worth noting here that Europe is beginning to be completely dominated by English clubs. Man United won their fourth consecutive Champions League trophy with a penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea at Wembley, while Liverpool’s Europa League triumph came at the expense of Tottenham via a comfortable 3-0 win in Gdansk.
As things stand Man United are the most dominant force in world football, having won 19 trophies in just six years. Jose Mourinho has returned Man United to the very top, but can he keep them there?