I have finally taken over the reins of my favourite football club, Liverpool FC, from ex-manager Jurgen Klopp, who has departed for Bayern Munich.
I wasted no time in shoring up the team's defense, signing Virgil Van Dijk, Toby Alderweireld and Asier Illarramendi . And I managed to persuade mercurial playmaker Coutinho to stay on, instead of departing for FC Barcelona.
My attack, spearheaded by Coutinho, Salah, Mane and Firmino, went on to score like there's no tomorrow. The result: We clinched Liverpool's first league title in 28 years, as well as the FA Cup and Champions' League, for a historic treble in my debut season.
Only in Football Manager (FM) 2018 can one live in such fantasy. It is the reason why the series has lasted for over two decades, from its origins as Championship Manager way back in 1992.
Each new edition has offered incremental upgrades, like better graphics and updates of player statistics.
The new highlight this year is the Dynamics system, which relates to the social hierarchy of your players. At the top are your captain, vice-captain and longest-serving players. Players who just joined the club are at the bottom.
Thus, like in real life, you not only have to juggle managerial duties like training, tactics, scouting and looking at your opposition's strengths and weakness, you need to maintain squad harmony as well.
Winning games boosts dressing room atmosphere, which increases managerial support. Better managerial support means players will work harder for you, which leads to winning more games.
The last thing you want to do is offend influential players, as they might start a player revolt. On the other hand, influential players can help you by persuading other players to do your bidding.
PRICE: $55 (PC, version tested; Mac)
GENRE: Football management simulation
For example, Adam Lallana, a highly-influential player in my Liverpool team, was not happy that I did not play him as often as I have promised, and was about to start a mutiny. But I managed to quell it by asking team captain and most influential player Jordan Henderson to placate him. It is a delicate balancing act.
What also stands out in FM 2018 is the more prominent role played by sports scientists and data analysts. They now provide more informative suggestions on how to make the most out of certain players, and on which formation works better against certain oppositions. They will also warn you about players who might be more vulnerable to injuries due to your high-pressing tactics.
The game's 3-D engine looks better than in previous years. While it still can't quite match the standard of Electronic Arts' football arcade game series Fifa, players now move more naturally. Goals now also come from slow build-ups and plays, instead of predominantly from crosses like with its previous two predecessors.
The menu interface has not changed much from previous versions. But there are certain improvements that will make life easier for you.
For example, you can now set Opposition Instructions to automatic. This way, your assistant manager will automatically change the instructions for marking, pressing and tackling of opposing players on your behalf throughout the match. Thus, you can focus on other aspects of the match.
Verdict: Football Manager 2018 continues the addictive nature of the series, with more realism and more interesting concerns to deal with. You just want to play one more match and, before you know it, it's 4am in the morning.