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 2023/24 campaign…
Man United’s attempts to continue their world domination see them spend £199m on four players across both transfer windows as Marco Asensio (£73m), Raheem Sterling (£55m), 22-year-old right-back Cesar Catrileo (£36m) and Monaco’s Djibril Sidibe (£34.5m) all join the Mourinho revolution.
The capture of Sterling sees the 29-year-old earn Bournemouth a bumper payday after he joined the Cherries on a free transfer just four seasons earlier.
Amazingly, Man United ended the season with just a £3m net spend, helped mostly by the £123m sale of Franck Kessie to PSG. Simone Zaza makes his AC Milan loan a permanent deal for £26.6m and Leicester spend £15m on Axel Tuanzebe.
Last year’s runners-up, Chelsea, attempt to spend their way to glory once again with a £143m outlay, the pick of the bunch being the £91m capture of PSG’s attacking wonderkid Hector Navalon.
Despite not managing to win the Premier League since replacing Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium in 2018, Massimiliano Allegri remains in charge at City. However, his decision to spend just £73m on reinforcements is criticised heavily in the media.
Allegri’s marquee signing came midway through July, signing Everton’s Jordan Pickford for £32m.
At Arsenal, Pep Guardiola throws £110m on 10 players. Inter Milan’s 21-year-old goal machine Lukasz Gawlik is his most expensive capture as the Poland international arrives for £40m. The only big name departure at the Emirates is Mesut Ozil, who decides not to renew his contract and leaves for Augsberg on a free transfer.
On the other side of North London, Spurs boss Carlo Ancelotti spends £75m on six players – none of which get anyone excited about the club’s immediate prospects. They are all in keeping with Spurs’ recent transfer policy, though – under the age of 24 with one eye on the future.
The Tottenham faithful do have to say farewell to club legend Hugo Lloris, though. The Frenchman leaves for Roma after 11 seasons and 387 Premier League appearances for Spurs. Daniel Levy does continue with his famous shrewd business deals as well – last season’s free signings, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Luke Shaw, are sold for a combined £23.5m to Stoke and Watford respectively. Shaw then leaves Watford for Wolves in January in a £8.25m deal.
Liverpool, fresh off the back of their Europa League triumph, only spend £41m on new faces. Timothy Fosu-Mensah returns to the Premier League after three-and-a-half years away in a £12m deal from CSKA Moscow.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Bournemouth raid Man City for Angel Correa (£21m) and Brahim Diaz (£12.5m) and then use the money they got for Sterling on Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster (£5.25) in January.
Newly promoted Burnley bring Jadon Sancho back to England from Frankfurt and Crystal Palace sign Juanmi from Real Sociedad for £16m, as well as convincing Daley Blind to sign on loan from Man United.
Everton look to mount a top four challenge with a £67m transfer spend on new faces, the standout name being Dennis Bonaventure from Club Brugge in a £10.25m deal.
Free agent Danny Welbeck pops up at newly promoted Middlesbrough, Alvaro Morata decides he can do it on a wet Tuesday night in Stoke after being released by Barcelona and 34-year-old Andre Ayew is one of 12 players to sign for Blackburn.
Around Europe, exciting young striker Frederico Caramelo lasts just one season at Real Madrid after his much-talked about £34.5m move from Benfica. He nets once in his one solitary La Liga appearance before being shipped out to Monaco for £51m, where he hits the ground running with 24 Ligue 1 goals in 34 outings.
Diogo Jota, the former Wolves star, and former Spurs midfielder Nabil Bentaleb are two of eight players to sign for Real Madrid.
Manchester United’s five year dominance comes to an end as Arsenal defy all odds by lifting their first Premier League crown in 20 years.
Arsenal’s triumph was fully deserved but it was United’s fall to third in the table that dominated the headlines, as well as their defeats in the Super Cup, Carabao Cup and Champions League finals.
Mourinho’s side finish ten points off Arsenal and nine points adrift of runners-up Man City as an inquest into to how the club’s dominance could come to such an abrupt end begins, despite him still winning the Community Shield, Club World Cup and the FA Cup.
Chelsea finish in fourth, three points ahead of Spurs, while Liverpool and Bournemouth both secure Europa League spots.
Bournemouth’s progression is the most impressive having spent much of the last few years safely in the top ten of the Premier League and threatening with every passing season to get in to Europe.
West Brom, Burnley and Blackburn are the three relegated to the Championship.
Arsenal’s title winning season came very much down to two very long unbeaten runs that had them pulling away from the chasing pack. The first came in at the end of September when Guardiola’s men reacted to a 2-1 defeat to Man City at the Etihad with a 13-game unbeaten run in which they only conceded six goals. The second streak came after a shock home loss to Newcastle, reacting with another 13-game unbeaten run.
Incredibly they failed to win any of their four meetings with the two Manchester giants, taking just just two points from a possible 12. It meant that United and City’s struggles at different stages of the season still allowed Arsenal to lift the trophy.
City started and ended the season strongly, but dropped points in between cost them dearly. Allegri’s side dropped just two points in their opening eight league games but then suffered a shock defeat away to Middlesbrough before failing to beat Man United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Everton.
A run of three games without a win in January, losing to Bournemouth and drawing with Watford and Newcastle, gave them a mountain to climb for the remainder of the campaign – not even a 17-game unbeaten run and eight consecutive victories was enough.
United only lost three games all season but their downfall undoubtedly goes down to the fact they drew too many of them – 13 in all, including two against rivals City.
Elsewhere, West Ham redefine the term ‘mid-table mediocrity’ with a third successive 10th place finish – they’re fourth in five seasons.
West Brom, despite winning their final game of the season were unable to survive the drop, mostly thanks to their awful run of one win in 14 games between January and April. Blackburn fully deserved to be bottom of the pack, though, as they only managed to score one goal in their final six games.
Here’s how the season looked as far as team records are concerned…
It’s another low scoring race for the Golden Boot, but it’s Gabriel Jesus who manages to win it with 19 goals from 27 league appearances. He beats Dele Alli to the award by a single goal, while Harry Kane only manages to net 15 in 30 to take him to 197 career Premier League goals. Only 63 to go but time is running out for the 30-year-old.
Dele Alli, Anthony Martial and Paulo Dybala all join the 100 club during the campaign.
The Golden Glove goes to Man United’s David De Gea for the fourth time in six seasons after keeping 17 clean sheets and conceding just 28 goals.
Tottenham’s £15.75m summer signing Huseyin Bayraktar tops the assist charts with 14, one ahead of Arsenal’s Naby Keita and Chelsea’s Hazard.
The Player of the Year is awarded to Man City’s Bernardo Silva, who registered 13 goals and 10 assists in 38 appearances, while the Young Player of the Year is Arsenal’s 22-year-old attacking midfielder Marco Alfieri – he signed in the summer from Atalanta for £33.5m and returned five goals and six assists in his debut Premier League season.
Manager of the Year goes to Pep Guardiola for defying all the odds and finally bringing the Premier League title back to North London while ending Jose Mourinho’s dominance with United.
The Team of the Year is more of a mixed bag but still includes some familiar faces in the likes of of Paulo Dybala, Eden Hazard and David De Gea.
And finally, a quick update on the battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in Spain.
Ronaldo, at 39 years old, scored his 500th career league goal for Real Madrid and took his La Liga record to an incredible 419 goals in 483 appearances – he hits double figures for goals in the league for the 18th season running with 10.
A 36-year-old Messi is still going strong, too. He nets 25 La Liga goals in 37 appearances to take his career league tally for Barcelona to 466 in 604 appearances.
It seems we’ve still got seven or eight years left of these two before they bow out.
Only five teams changed managers during the season, but before we get onto that it’s worth noting that there are a number of retired players currently trying their luck at management by now and a couple were sacked midway through the campaign.
Ryan Giggs got his first managerial break at Derby County in 2017 but only managed to last a season there before getting the job at Aston Villa. Two seasons later he left for Sunderland before the Black Cats sacked him during this season, and he eventually took the Brentford job.
Wayne Rooney is also struggling to make a go of management – his first job came with Shrewsbury in 2021 but a year later he was sacked. Plymouth gave him a chance at the beginning of this season but by mid-December he’d been sacked again.
Steve Sidwell is currently Coventry manager, Gary Neville is at Reading after caretaker roles at Swansea and Villa, Graziano Pelle is in charge of Huddersfield and Craig Bellamy was sacked by Crawley earlier this season.
Back to the Premier League and it was West Ham who decided to pull the trigger first as Nuno Espirito Santo is sacked after the Hammers manage just two wins from their opening 12 games of the campaign. His replacement, Paul Heckingbottom, wins his first game charge at home to London rivals Tottenham.
Heckinbottom left Watford to take the West Ham job and it took the Hornets two weeks to find a replacement in Marcin Wasilewski.
Everton were next up and they sacked Nigel Pearson after he lost the dressing room just before Christmas and the Toffees replaced him with Burnley’s Jorge Sampaoli. Burnley replace him with Nuno Santo.
Nigel Pearson is offered a rapid return to management, though, as Wolves decided to bring him in to replace departed Vedran Corluka – Pearson keeps them up.
Can Man United bounce back? Mourinho has a job on his hands and anything less than another Premier League crown will be seen as a huge failure by the Glazers.
Arsenal’s primary aim will be to retain the title but it’ll be harder than ever as Man City and Chelsea continue to look very strong in that top four.
Liverpool will continue in their attempts to return to the top four, as will Spurs, while Marco Silva’s Bournemouth will enjoy their first ever taste of European football.
Is Heckingbottom really the right man to take West Ham forward? Can Pearson progress with Wolves? It’s going to be an interesting season.
Premier League Champions: Arsenal
Champions League qualification: Arsenal, Man City, Man United and Chelsea
Europa League qualification: Tottenham, Liverpool and Bournemouth
Relegated to Championship: West Brom, Burnley and Blackburn Rovers
Promoted to Premier League: Leeds, Ipswich and Sunderland
Community Shield Winners: Man United
FA Cup Winners: Man United
Carabao Cup Winners: Man City
UEFA Super Cup Winners: Liverpool
Club World Championship: Man United
Champions League Winners: Arsenal
Europa League Winners: PSG
A season to forget for Man United (even though Mourinho added another three trophies to their cabinet) culminated in them losing on penalties to Arsenal in the Champions League final at the San Siro, while Spurs lost their second consecutive Europa League final, this time to PSG at Wembley.
Arsenal’s season ended in an unlikely double for Pep Guardiola’s side but all eyes will be on whether he can continue such dominance.
<< Click here for the 22/23 season | 24/25 season coming soon!