Football Manager 2012 wonderkids Man Utd should sign after Jack Butland

Jack Butland has become the latest in a growing list of Football Manager 2012 wonderkids to be playing their football at Manchester United in 2023.

David de Gea was already at United when the game was released all those years ago, as was Phil Jones, and they have since been joined by Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw, Casemiro and Christian Eriksen – all of whom were must-buys on FM12.

United also had Rafael, Fabio, Paul Pogba, Adnan Januzaj, Ravel Morrison, Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda on the books back then, making them a real powerhouse of the virtual world all those years ago.

With club scouts clearly dusting off their old copies of FM12 for inspiration, who else could they sign from back in the days of Adryan, Wellington Nem and Bojan?

Alvaro Morata was a guaranteed hit in FM12, and these days, he’s not half bad either.

Then of Real Madrid, Morata has been on a real journey since then and now finds himself on the books across town with Atletico. He’s been a reliable source of goals everywhere he’s gone… just don’t ask Chelsea fans to vouch for that.

United need a striker to replace Cristiano Ronaldo, could Morata be the guy?

Speaking of Ronaldo, he’s just linked up with Vincent Aboubakar with Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr, but there are rumours that the Cameroon international could be on his way to Old Trafford in exchange.

Back in FM12, a 19-year-old Aboubakar was coming through at Valenciennes, and he was destined to go on to become one of the greatest strikers the world has ever seen.

In real life, he’s been calling out Mohamed Salah, claiming to be just as good as the Liverpool man but restricted to smaller stages. Time to put his money where his mouth is?

Just 16 years old in FM12, Mike Maignan was a star in PSG’s youth setups and scouts across the globe all knew he was going to be a superstar…apart from PSG themselves.

Shipped off to Lille for pennies in 2015, Maignan is now one of the game’s best goalkeepers with AC Milan, doing the FM chiefs proud by realising the potential that his own club refused to accept he had.

United are in the market for a goalkeeper and they could do a whole lot worse than flicking the calendar back to 2012 and moving for Maignan.

A 19-year-old Stefan de Vrij was the stuff of dreams in FM12. He’d soon outgrow Feyenoord and you always needed to make sure you would be at the front of the queue for his signature.

Lazio were the lucky side to land De Vrij in 2014 and he elevated his game even further with a big move to Inter in 2018, where he cemented his place as one of those reliable, top-tier defenders who will always have plenty of suitors.

Erik ten Hag, a fellow Dutchman, will know all about De Vrij, whose Inter contract is expiring at the end of this season. It all makes sense.

Let’s be honest. You didn’t know how to pronounce his name back then, and you still don’t now.

Nevertheless, we managers convinced ourselves that Sime Vrsaljko was our Next Big Thing and however we were pronouncing his name in our heads was correct. Of course it was, we were smart and brilliant managers.

In real life, Vrsaljko flirted with superstardom as he played for both Atletico Madrid and Inter, but he now finds himself looking for a new club at just 30 years old. A quick fix for Ten Hag’s right-back problem, right here.

Ah, the last time you were ever actually able to sign Neymar on FM. Good times.

The Santos whizzkid undeniably lived up to the billing as he excelled for Barcelona and is currently enjoying one of his most devastating seasons on the books at Paris Saint-Germain, but there are suggestions that his time in the French capital could be coming to an end.

As we learned back on FM12, you better take any chance you get to sign Neymar because you never know when the opportunity will come around again.

It’s not actually legal to talk about FM12 without mentioning the Mexican Machine himself, Carlos Fierro.

You hadn’t heard of him back then and you’ve still never seen him play a game in your life, but you’re lying if you don’t think Fierro is one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of boots. The number of goals he’d go on to score for you was just silly.

In real life, Fierro never got the big-money move to Europe we were expecting, with his only switch outside Mexico being a temporary stay in San Jose. Still only 28, he could be the answer to Ten Hag’s prayers for attacking reinforcements – and I’ve got so many saves that can prove that.