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The Best and Most Challenging Teams to Manage in Football Manager 2021

Football Manager 2021 is sadistically realistic and often, the seemingly easiest of gigs will be incredibly challenging.

Trying to forge a cup-winning team is difficult and requires knowledge, skill and a bit of luck. So what are the most engaging or challenging teams to manage in Football Manager 2021? Which teams will really push your skills to their limit? Let’s round up some of our favourites…

Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic were cruelly relegated from the EFL Championship last year following a controversial ownership change that saw them go into administration. They nearly escaped due to some brilliant work by their club, but were dumped down because of the 12 point deduction.

Sadly it looks like more unfair challenges await them in League One where they are battling for survival despite administration. This is what awaits you if you choose to manage them. Not only will you have to survive the angst of League One; you will have to try and settle crippling finances, an unsettled team with no breathing room. But Wigan deserve better, and hopefully you can be the one to provide that.

Sheffield Wednesday

Sticking with the English Football League, another challenging start would be Sheffield Wednesday. They start in the Championship with high, or should I say Massive, expectations. However, they start the already competitive league with a six-point deduction.

While this is a minor penalty for cheating, it still leads to them being one of the most challenging teams in Football Manager 2021. But it’s an eventful and rewarding challenge for anyone who fancies rising against the odds and lead them back to the Premier League.


Normally we don’t go for clubs with such lofty backing, but Barcelona in the real world are having a real nightmare of a season this year. Languishing in 7th, they seem without any real control, tactical prowess or leadership.

For a team that has the personnel of Lionel Messi, Grieezenman and Martin Braithwaithe, you’d expect much better. Maybe you could be the one who helps the Catalan club compete for the cups it clearly craves.

Empoli FC

You might not have heard of Empoli FC – we hadn’t, until we saw their amazing youth setup. They have brilliant youth intake and training facilities for a team that is no longer in the top tier of Italian football. This makes them pretty fun to play as they are poised for some brilliant new recruits.

The most obvious first port of call for any Empoli manager would be to restore them back to Serie A, using their incredible youth to create a dynamic team that can out run your opponents. From there it is an uphill battle to get yourself amongst the giants of Juventus et al.


The Netherlands are a force to be reckoned with in world football, but only Ajax have really made a mark on the world stage in the last few years. However PSV used to have that accolade. They still have the potential to make amongst Europe’s elite.

They boast swathes of influential players, none more so than Mario Gotze, so they have the talent as well as the resources to challenge in the Champions League. They just need that bit of tactical guile. Can you take them back to the top?

Start Unemployed

If there is one thing we’ve learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s that you don’t just automatically get a job. If you want to bring this brutal realism to Football Manager 2021, you can choose to start unemployed. This means you have to work hard to establish yourself as a manager before you get a pick of the jobs you crave.

While the start of the game can be a dull experience, the feeling you get after working your way to the top is something to behold. It’s not only players that get their dream move, managers can too!

Stade Rennais FC

Ligue Un finished early last year and a surprising, somewhat unknown French team managed to finish third. That team was Stade Rennais FC. They are slowly becoming more and more competitive in a league dominated by the riches of Paris Saint-Germain.

With a brilliant academy and a year in the Champions League, you can manage the team at a crucial time. You could lead them to becoming an established French team or see them languish as their youth intake is picked apart from the vultures of bigger spenders.

Sheffield United

If you’re looking at the Premier League there are plenty of intriguing choices. If you’re looking at more established clubs, you could try and outperform the languishing Manchester clubs or see if you’re a better fit for the Gunners than Mike Arteta. However, we think that the most interesting choice is the red side of Sheffield.

Chris Wilder has done an amazing job, bringing Sheffield United from League One obscurity to Premier League glory in a few years. However, his miracle touch may be at its end. He has managed to get the best out of an average squad and time may be up for them. Could you do any better? Make some shrewd signings and you could establish the Blades in the top flight.


You can tell that we love a phoenix rising from the ashes; a club coming back from the near dead and becoming strong again. This could be the case for Bolton. Not long ago they were in the Championship struggling to stay afloat, but managing to ward off relegation. Then the bubble burst and they nearly went completely out of the Football League.

Last year they achieved only 14 points amongst a handful of young and free agents that were available. But now the ship has steadied and they are ready to fight back up the leagues with you at the helm.

Your Hometown Club

Your hometown club might have already been mentioned here, here remains many smaller teams that are yet to be picked. Nothing beats becoming a virtual hero to your favourite childhood team.

This author normally avoids playing as his beloved Charlton at first, waiting until he’s a good enough manager to feel the void taken by the legend that is Lee Bowyer. But that tale could be spun the same for a thousand people at a thousand clubs. It’s a game about passion, after all.

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