Having just completed the sixth season of my Manchester United save on FM16, I’ve been able to assess the performance of several excellent players from close quarters. Players like Bernardo Silva, Ruben Neves, Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw, Gino Peruzzi, Jesus Vallejo, John Stones, Christian Eriksen — the list goes on and on — have been incredibly impressive — and let’s not get started on players I haven’t managed myself! However, if I had to choose one player I’ve learned more about than I knew going into the game, it would have to be Tottenham Hotspur’s homegrown superstar, Harry Kane.
I’d never managed the 22-year-old before, and was very keen to find out how he’d fare in my attacking Manchester United side; having dished out a sweet £45 million on him in the summer of 2016, I had my fingers crossed he’d go on to eclipse the likes of Premier League legends Alan Shearer and Ruud van Nistelrooy, and potentially surpass club legend Denis Law in the club’s goal-scoring record books. After five seasons at Old Trafford, he isn’t quite at Law’s 237-goal mark yet, but he has been incredible in every sense of the word.
Since FM16 has been out, I’ve seen many people ask for advice on how to manage Kane, including the tactical setup and style of play that can get the best out of him. Given my overwhelming success with the player, I feel I’m well placed to write about these topics. In this piece, I’ll focus on the following:
- Kane’s performance in my save
- Key Attributes and playing style
- Tactics: Formations and Instructions
- Player Roles
- Other Points
I hope my thoughts prove useful, and you enjoy similar success with the next great England No. 9! Let’s get started.
Kane’s performance in my save
Games played: 216
Goals scored: 157
Overall average rating: 7.40
PotM awards: 27
Four goals: 1
After five excellent seasons at United, Kane’s goal-scoring figures are eerily reminiscent of Ruud van Nistelrooy’s: the Dutchman scored 150 goals in 219 appearances for United, with 95 goals in 150 league games. Not only has Kane bettered van Nistelrooy’s overall record for United, he has also obliterated his league record. The esteem in which van Nistelrooy is held in and around Old Trafford only tells you how ruthless Kane has been for me.
The most recent season was by far the best for my Manchester United side, and a lot of my success had to do with Kane reaching another level in terms of individual performance: he scored an astonishing 55 goals in 58 club appearances, annihilating Denis Law’s 56-year-old record tally of 46 goals in a single campaign; four of Kane’s goals came in a jaw-dropping 5-0 annihilation of Messi, Neymar and Co.’s Barcelona side in the final of the European Champions Cup.
Key Attributes and playing style
Kane has an excellent mix of attributes across the board, making him capable of playing a number of different roles.
Thanks to his First Touch (16), Technique (16), Composure (17), Concentration (17), Balance (16), and Finishing (16), he’s an excellent finisher in the penalty area, and many of his goals come from mopping up loose balls in the box.
His Heading (16), Jumping (16), Stamina (16), and Strength (16) also allow him to play as a more physical striker, providing a focal point for a long-ball build-up game.
As if that isn’t enough, he also has the Work Rate (16) and Natural Fitness (13) to drop deep and link up play with the midfielders. He’s also capable of Long Shots (15), and his special moves reflect the danger he poses from distance.
His all-round development enables the manager to tinker with player roles and tactical systems, since he can fit into just about any system with minor tweaks. This makes a tactical discussion with respect to Kane all the more interesting, and I’ll get to this shortly.
The only real chink in Kane’s armour is the Penalty Taking (11); I feel he’s a tad under-powered in this area, and has missed a couple of penalties in my save. However, it is worth noting that there have been observations that goalkeepers are generally saving more penalties in FM16 than they have in previous versions of Football Manager.
Tactics: Formations and Instructions
I’ve experimented with a number of formations during my time at United, and one of the early ones was a 4-1-2-1-2 with wing-backs and a narrow diamond in midfield. Kane would usually be played as a Target Man alongside a Complete Forward up front, but I realized this formation didn’t suit him, hence the relatively poor return of 16 goals in 40 appearances in his first season.
I soon understood the key to getting the best out of Kane: I needed a system with wingers to supply him, and I needed a less crowded attacking third of the pitch, giving him the freedom of movement to drop deep, dragging center-backs with him to create space in behind and get in shooting positions. Kane is a remarkable header of the ball, and I wanted a system that would also maximize the crosses coming in to him.
Thus, I arrived at the 4-1-1-3-1 system shown in the screenshot (note: the screenshot is from December 2019, and since then Lacazette has been replaced by a regen Dutch winger, Ruben Neves has taken over from Kristoffer Ajer in the CDM-DLP-Support role), and I’ve given Pogba the creative freedom in the CM-RPM-Support role).
This setup allows Kane to fulfill all of the different abilities I’ve mentioned below: dropping deep to participate in build-up play, holding the ball up for the wingers and CAM-AP-Support to feed off, and running onto crosses from the flanks. The full-backs are given the WB-Automatic roles, and instructed to Cross the ball to the center from deep, and often, giving Kane ample service.
Regarding overall instructions, I instruct my team to Hit Early Crosses (Looking for the Overlap can sometimes leave you susceptible to counter-attacks, especially if your opposition is strong on the flanks), and Run at Defense, so that the wingers bomb down the flanks all day long, looking to beat their man. Crossing is set on Mixed Crosses, with the intention of the full-backs (wing-backs, really) floating crosses from deep for Kane to glance into the far corner, and the wingers to whip them in from closer to the byline for the striker to run onto. I also instruct my team to Close down much more, ensuring we put the opposition under pressure and win the ball back when they’re defensively out of shape.
I usually play a slightly deeper line, as I feel this encourages the opposition to push higher up, leaving larger gaps in behind for my wingers and striker to capitalize on. The Pass into Space instruction aims to help with the aggressive counter-attacks down the flank.
The high pressing and crossing game serves to get the best out of Kane, helping us supply him early and catch the opposition unaware; his high Off the Ball (16) and Anticipation (16) make him ideally suited to early crosses.
According to the game, Kane’s best role is the Target Man, and, as mentioned, this is the role I played him in for much of the experimental first season. Proving my initial reservations correct, Kane’s performances were sub-par; I felt the role meant he was always up against the defenders, and couldn’t drop deep and participate in the build-up play along the ground. The role is highly restrictive on the striker’s functionality, instead structured to bring others into the game.
In addition to this highly limiting aspect, I also thought the availability of a physical target man up front made my team ignore the instructions to circulate possession in wide areas, instead pumping the ball into the box from deep.
I have to mention that I’ve rarely used the Target Man role, and my misgivings could just be a result of me being unaware of how to get the best out of it.
I then tried Kane in the Complete Forward (Support) role, for which he seemed absolutely perfect; it combines technicality with physicality, and is far less restrictive than the Target Man role, allowing the player to drop into space, run at the defense, take long shots, and generally participate in build-up play a lot more, essentially ticking every box on my list. However, Kane didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, and given the success of Anthony Martial and Vincent Aboubakar, my other strikers, in that role, I chose to persevere in my search for Kane’s unique role in the team.
I ended up deciding on the Advanced Forward (Attack) role, one I’d had incredible success with in the past. It’s beautiful in the single-minded ruthlessness in front of goal it encourages in the striker, and goals are the single most important currency any striker deals in. The striker has much more freedom of movement, and is instructed to chase down loose balls in the inside channel, thus serving as a mobile focal point for midfield runners to feed off. The required Mental attributes for this role are: Anticipation, Composure, Decisions, Determination, Off the Ball, and Work Rate, and one look at Kane’s profile shows he’s sensational in every one.
The role reaped immediate rewards, and I haven’t looked back since; Kane’s numbers in the last four seasons have been excellent.
To round off this discussion, I thought I’d mention some other aspects of Kane’s profile, to give you a better idea about what he brings on and off the pitch.
Despite his average Leadership (13), I’ve found him to be an excellent captain; he’s always approachable, and an excellent judge of team morale at any given time. Those who have managed Manchester United in FM16 will know that Wayne Rooney isn’t the greatest captain, and refuses to welcome new signings; in that sense, Kane has been excellent. He’s also incredibly responsive to team talks, even when they get repetitive.
In essence, not only is Kane a deadly goal-scorer when played in the right system, he’s a great professional, and an absolute dream to manage.