FIFA 21: How to win in Managerial Masterpieces
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Recommended squads, tactics and personnel to unlock those juicy Objective Players
FIFA 21 Ultimate Team players have been spoiled for content this year, and the best part is that some of the most enjoyable player cards have been free. All you have to do is complete certain objectives in Managerial Masterpieces, a playlist in Live FUT Friendlies, to unlock them. But Managerial Masterpieces forces you to use a squad with a max overall rating of 77, which can be restrictive. So what's the best way to rinse Managerial Masterpieces and have fun in the process? Read on to find out.
Managerial Masterpieces rules
The first rule of Managerial Masterpieces is that you do not talk about-- oh wait, it's that your squad must have a maximum overall rating of 77. The second rule is no bronze cards (in the team or on the bench) to drive that rating through the floor. The third rule is a maximum of three silver cards (which can be rated as low as 65).
Managerial Masterpieces isn't like Max Chemistry, where you can play people out of position for no chemistry cost. Your squads need to be constructed with the usual rules of chemistry in mind. Fortunately, this is pretty straightforward, because most of the objectives built around Managerial Masterpieces ask you to play with a squad consisting of a majority of players (sometimes the full XI) from one league.
Objectives are the key to Managerial Masterpieces -- there's little point dabbling in it if you aren't grinding for something -- so make sure to keep an eye on the Milestones and Objectives tabs to see which players are available. Players in Milestones can be earned throughout the cycle, while those in Objectives are time-limited. (At the time of writing, you can earn a juiced-up Bundesliga left-back and a frighteningly pacey Portuguese forward from La Liga.) The multiple Objectives for a specific player generally overlap -- e.g. you can score many of the 30 goals needed for Bundesliga while racking up the required 15 wins.
The best Managerial Masterpieces squad
While your playing personnel will vary depending on the objectives that you pursue, the basic structure of the team can be consistent. Having unlocked every Objective Player offered in the game so far, we have hit upon a pretty straightforward formula:
On the bench:
- 3x 65-rated silver players - these can be anyone from any leagues, and you can usually pick some up by searching for common silver cards and bidding 150 coins on some of the least valuable
- 4x 75-rated gold players - again, these can come from anywhere
- Goalkeeper - any 75-rated gold player
- Defenders - centre-backs should be as fast as possible, ideally 70+ pace, while full-backs should have as close to 90 pace (or above) as possible
- Central midfielders - CMs and CDMs should be low rated with decent speed (70+) and high defence (70+)
- Wingers - 90 speed or above
- Strikers - 85+ speed and 80+ shooting
As you can see, we prioritise speed on the flanks and a combination of decent speed and finishing up top. In the middle, we just need warm bodies who can perform the basics, and in goal it doesn't really matter who plays. Clean sheets are seldom important, and when you are chasing victories, you can keep forfeiting matches until you find an easy opponent. We play a 4-4-2 formation, because it is straightforward and suits the meta, but any formation that you find comfortable will be fine. Adjust the line-up accordingly.
Something to bear in mind when building a squad for any Live FUT Friendlies mode is that you can use loan players without reducing the number of matches on the card. So that does mean that if you have a loan Mbappe or R9 Ronaldo in your club, they can be eligible. But for this specific mode, we prioritise team balance over individual excellence. R9 is great, but if he is surrounded by 75-rated nobodies, then he cannot thrive. You are better off with two fast, agile 82-rated attackers instead. With so many strong, mid-rated cards in the game, it is folly to use high-end cards at the expense of team balance.
The finishing touch for your squad is Chemistry Styles. A lot of players do not bother with Chem Styles for Managerial Masterpieces, but it is an inexpensive way to get ahead and we recommend it. You don't have to put expensive Shadow and Hunter styles on players, but you can buy a lot of Catalyst Chem Styles, which boost pace and passing, for 200 coins apiece. A team with Catalyst on every outfield player (cost: 2000 coins or less) will be faster and slicker to play with than a team without Chem Styles.
The best Managerial Masterpieces tactics
For Custom Tactics, we recommend the following (default unless stated):
- GK - Comes For Crosses, Sweeper Keeper
- Full-backs - Stay Back While Attacking
- Centre-backs - Default
- Central midfielders - Stay Back While Attacking
- Wingers - Get Into Box For Cross
- Strikers - Default
For the overall team tactics, we keep everything Balanced, default Width and Depth, and reduce the number of players in the box for corners and set-pieces from 3/5 to 2/5.
Our in-game approach is very straightforward: discipline in defence, remaining calm in transition, then speed in attack.
Defence in this case begins as soon as you lose the ball, whether that happens high up the pitch or near your penalty area. Do not race towards the ball carrier unless you are extremely close to contest a 50-50. Instead, grab a CDM or CM and run back towards your goal, cutting off passing lanes. You are going to recover the ball by relying on AI defenders to position themselves well and using a midfielder to choke the player in possession. If possible, shepherd the opponent towards the touchlines. If they attempt a ball into the feet of their attacker followed by a one-two with the strike partner, do not lunge for the ball; keep dropping back to cut off the inevitable through ball. Some players object to this "drop back" style of defence, but it is the most effective tactic available for the majority of players. When your opponent runs into the wall of defenders, they will need to double back and look for passes; this is where you will make hay with the midfielder you control.
Going forward, the strategy is equally simple. Your first priority is to keep the ball. It is all too easy to lose it by playing a blind pass out of defence when you first recover it. Instead, make safe passes until you have a little breathing room to look up and see where you can move forward. Once you have consolidated possession in this way, play the ball forward as quickly as possible to whoever is open, whether that is down the wing (a one-two between winger and full-back is always handy) or into the striker(s). From there, use one-two passing (LB/L1 + pass) to keep players moving forward together, and take the first good shooting opportunity you find. Don't overthink things.
And if you find you cannot play this way because the opponent is too good, simply quit. Matchmaking in Live FUT Friendlies is reputedly based on a mixture of your skill rating and location, but it feels a lot looser than modes like Division Rivals and FUT Champions. It is perfectly possible to end up in a "pub stomp" where your opponent is nowhere near your level, and vice versa. With a well-balanced team, you should be able to rack up wins relatively quickly if you know what you are doing. If it's hard going, quit, because it does not need to be hard going in this mode.
Finally, the objectives for each unlockable player usually include some specific asks like "x finesse shots" or "x goals from crosses", but typically you don't need many of those. The more time-consuming requirements will be based on total number of wins, or total number of games in which you score with players from a specific league or nation. So it makes sense to concentrate on the latter and hopefully pick up the more specific goal types naturally during matches that you dominate. If you are coming up short, you can always start biasing your play towards specific styles in later matches.
The best players for Managerial Masterpieces
Building your own squads is fun, but if you are in a hurry, then we have some recommendations for specific positions in each of the top five leagues. We won't bother with goalkeeper or CM/CDM/CAM recommendations, because those are pretty straightforward. Besides those, these are the players we generally like to keep around the club:
- Fullbacks - Fredericks, Tsimikas
- Wingers - Allan Saint-Maximin, Adama Traore
- Strikers - Rodrigo, Michail Antonio
- Fullbacks - Roussillon, Mbabu
- Wingers - Kostic, Bellarabi
- Strikers - Hwang Hee Chan, Haaland (Haaland is slower, but his card is on the cover of the game this year, and slightly overpowered vs his stats)
- Fullbacks - Dest, Mojica
- Wingers - Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo
- Strikers - Inaki Williams, Kevin Gameiro
- Fullbacks - Kamara, Atal
- Wingers - Moses Simon, Gelson Martins
- Strikers - Jonathan David, Keita Balde (beware: he has moved to Serie A, so his Monaco card may be more expensive)
- Fullbacks - Theo Hernandez, Joakim Mæhle
- Wingers - Lozano, Gervinho
- Strikers - Balde, Lasagna
You may also have some good Objective Players tucked away in your club that you earned through Seasons rewards. Level 15 in each Season so far has doled out some strong cards, notably Andres Tello (Serie A 82-rated CM), Woo Yeong Jeong (Bundesliga 82-rated RM) and most recently Alfred Duncan (Serie A 83-rated CM) who will bring a team to life.
Which players are worth unlocking?
Given that most Objective Players are time-limited, we will stick to the Squad Foundations players, which can be earned throughout the cycle. EA Sports has added a few of these since launch, and there are some strong cards in among them.
We particularly recommend completing the Eredivise cards, because Mitchell van Bergen is an exceptional card. An 84-rated right winger, he has a five-star weak foot, and base 97 acceleration/95 sprint speed, with reasonable shooting, passing and dribbling, making him a fantastic super-sub for any squad at any level. (The key to fast attacking subs is pace on the card, because substitutes do not receive 10 chemistry, so their Chem Style cards only have limited impact. But Van Bergen with a Hawk, for instance, is essentially max pace off the bench despite this limitation.) The other Dutch league players are no slouches either.
Elsewhere, MLS and the Championship both have some decent cards. They aren't as essential as the Dutch, but they may be useful for things like Icon Swaps Objectives in the future. The MLS left-back Nick Lima is particularly handy - a fast card with a four-star weak foot, and his nationality gives him a nice link to the 87-rated Christian Pulisic card that is one of the pinnacle rewards for Season 3.
Whoever you go for though, we recommend taking your time. Managerial Masterpieces is fun to grind in quieter moments between promos, but it can be easy to get carried away and stop having fun. If you find that happening, take a break! Van Bergen will be waiting when you rediscover your mojo. Good luck!