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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Let's play: Alex Ferguson's Player Manager 2001
BBC Sport Online reviewer David Gibbon learns the tricks of the management trade with Alex Ferguson's Player Manager 2001 .

Although never quite managing to fight off the likes of Championship Manager, Player Manager has always had its own army of loyal fans.

The series has always boasted excellent use of the latest player stats and in-depth gameplay.

Now Anco's latest version of the game has recruited the services of one Mr Alex Ferguson to back up its promotional campaign.

Manchester United's most successful manager lends his experience, giving football insights on in-game tactics, statistics and formation to aspiring virtual managers.

  Alex Ferguson's PM 2001
Format: PC
Price: 29.99
Publisher: 3D0
Genre: Football Management
Also Available: PS2
Whether or not he was actually behind this is not for me to say, but I've got to say that most of "his" advice is nigh on perfect.

As you would expect, Alex Ferguson's Player Manager 2001 comes with up-to-date player stats for the 2001-2002 season.

In addition, it allows you to participate in 10 of Europe's premier leagues simultaneously.

These include the English Premiership and the Scottish, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese and Swedish leagues.

The game features a database containing over 20,000 players across five continents, which - although large - pales in comparison to the latest Championship Manager, which has over 100,000 players, coaches and managers.

It is a shame Anco did not include more players, as this relegates it into a lower league than the champion of all management games.

  Gibbon's verdict
Graphics: 78%
Playability: 87%
Sound: 69%
Realism: 93%
Overall: 91%
That said, there are still plenty of stats here, and for those players who do not like to get too bogged down, it is perfect.

One of the key features is the all-new 3D match engine.

This allows you to watch a match frame-by-frame with camera angles, which include a free-cam and zoom options.

This works very well - although no better than the EA Sports 3D engine featured in FA Premier League Manager 2002.

Where Player Manager 2001 really excels is in its realism and complexity.

You can go for the simplistic option, but those who want to see what it is really like being a manager can do so.

There is an incredible array of options and the menu system has had a complete overhaul and is by far the best ever incorporated into a management game.

Although Codemasters LMA Manager comes a close second, this tops it for sheer ease of use.

Before sending footballers out onto the pitch, they need training and you have all the equipment at your disposal to give it to them.

There is an excellent tactics editor allowing you to train individuals exactly the way you want - even down to practicing set pieces.

Although Player Manager 2001 does not match Championship Manager overall, its amazing realism and in-depth playability makes it perfect for those who want to really find out what it is like to be Sir Alex!

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