In football manager the player chooses a team and then must try to earn promotion from the fourth to the first division (although the player can then keep playing for as many seasons as they wish), there are various levels of difficulty that can be selected. The player also competes in the FA Cup. While the team and player names are real, they are not accurately represented so whichever team is selected, the player always starts in the fourth division and their team is randomly populated with players.
Each player has a skill rating and an energy rating. Players must be rested to renew their energy rating or if they become injured. The players’ skill and energy ratings also change at the end of the season. The team has ratings of defence, midfield and attack (the total skills of all defenders, midfielders or attackers selected), energy (an average of all selected players) and morale (which increases when the team wins and decreases when they lose). The player can select their team to balance the skills based on the opposing team’s ratings (e.g. to increase the defence rating if the opposition has a high attack rating).
As the match is played, the screen is updated if a goal is scored. For versions with animated graphics highlights, attempts on goal are shown in isometric 3D at either end of the pitch with a scoreboard showing the current score. The player can not affect the game while it is in progress.
The player must also balance finances. Weekly income and expenditure is calculated and bank loans can be taken out. There is also a basic player transfer system. Random players become available to buy which the player can bid for. If the squad reaches the maximum of 16, no players will be available to buy. The player can also list their own players for sale and then accept or reject bids.
Very basic graphically and audio but the gameplay was addictive at the time, the game did age quite badly and there are many better games including the sequel.