Chelsea’s Mason Mount could be headed to Man Utd this summer; we take a look at why Chelsea are letting him go, what he would bring to Man Utd and where he would fit in under Erik ten Hag; Man Utd have approached Chelsea, who want £70m for the England midfielder
Erik ten Hag first bumped into Mason Mount when he was Ajax head coach. On loan at Vitesse Arnhem, the 18-year-old’s free-kick led to his side’s third goal as they beat Ajax 3-2 in March 2018.
Ten Hag, then in charge of just his eighth game at Ajax, reportedly tried to sign Mount for the Dutch club on loan from Chelsea the following season. Fourteen goals and 10 assists in his first full campaign of senior football, largely from central midfield, had caught Ten Hag’s attention.
Mason Mount impressed on loan at Vitesse Arnhem as a teenager
The Chelsea academy product instead ended up on loan at Derby County in the Championship with Blues legend Frank Lampard as his manager. It was the perfect next step as Lampard was made Chelsea head coach in 2019 and propelled Mount into the first team.
Mount, the now two-time Chelsea player of the year winner, had become a vital player under Lampard and, despite predictions to the contrary, continued to be so when Thomas Tuchel took charge. The midfielder was averaging more than 20 goal contributions after three seasons at Chelsea.
For England and Chelsea, he had become almost undroppable. It was Mount’s penetrative pass that unlocked Man City in the 2021 Champions League final for Kai Havertz’s goal as Chelsea became European champions in Porto. Ten Hag perhaps watching on at the time with a sense of vindication.
Now, after a difficult season for Mount and a chaotic first year under Chelsea’s new owners, Man Utd are frontrunners to sign the 24-year-old midfielder and expected to make a formal offer. Ten Hag, it seems, could be about to get his man.
Why are Chelsea selling Mount?
Twelve months ago, when Ten Hag was appointed Man Utd manager, the idea of him having a second chance at trying to lure Mount away from Stamford Bridge wasn’t even a consideration.
But the likelihood of Mount now staying at Stamford Bridge is remote with the midfielder unwilling to sign a new deal. Chelsea know this is the time to cash in on a player who has just one year left on his contract.
After record spending of more than £600m over the last two transfer windows, the Blues need to balance the books by selling players to stay in line with Financial Fair Play rules. Mount represents one of their most valuable assets hence their willingness to move him on, even if it is to a Premier League rival.
Chelsea, Sky Sports News understands, want £70m for their academy graduate while United are said to be hoping to pay nearer to £50m. Reports suggest an offer isn’t far away.
Looking back there are similarities with this and Marcus Rashford’s situation last summer. Ten Hag was able to lift Rashford, who became the first Man Utd player to score 30 goals in a season since Robin van Persie in 2012/13. Man Utd certainly would’ve regretted letting him go based on that return.
Lampard, who was in interim charge of Chelsea for the last few months of the season, certainly thinks he’s worth keeping around.
“I’m not going to tell anyone what opinion they should have on football but if anyone thinks Mason Mount is not already a top-level player then I’m not sure what they’re seeing, in my opinion,” said Lampard.
“But from working with Mason, you can ask myself, you can ask Thomas Tuchel, you can ask Gareth Southgate, you can ask Graham Potter, it’s clear he’s a top player.
“He can go even further but he’s already a top player.”
Why do Man Utd want Mount?
Earlier in the season, following the arrivals of Casemiro (£70m) and Eriksen (free) last summer, the midfield looked to have become an area of strength at United, at least in terms of first-choice options.
Ten Hag’s go-to trio of Casemiro, Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes has lost just once this season when starting together which backs that up. However, when Fred, Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek are called upon there is a marked drop-off in quality.
In addition to that, as the campaign wore on, it became clear that Eriksen, while unique to the other options at Ten Hag’s disposal for the control he brings in possession, struggles to compete at his peak for the full 90 minutes. After Christmas, the Denmark international completed just one of the 15 games he started.
Mount’s arrival would certainly address the issue of quality and depth in United’s midfield. The 24-year-old’s work-rate in and out of possession makes him the type of player that managers can rely on.
“Mason brings a certain attitude and an aura and a mentality on the field,” former Chelsea boss Tuchel said in 2021. “It is very hard to drop him because even if he has a not so good game, you’ll always get full energy and positivity and a wonderful approach.”
Tuchel’s words will be music to Ten Hag’s ears. Mount brings all the qualities he’s looking for.
What is often overlooked with Mount is his ability to provide goals and assists. As we know, United have struggled for goals this season, and while they’re looking for a striker to ameliorate the issue, adding another source of goals is a must.
Across his first three seasons at Chelsea – which excludes the most recent campaign – Mount had 44 goal involvements across 105 Premier League appearances. The only midfielders with more were Man City’s Kevin De Bruyne (74) and Fernandes (61).
At just 24, Mount’s best years should still be ahead of him. United could be getting an already established England international at a reduced price who has even more potential to grow. It’s not often situations like this come along.
Where would Mount fit in at Man Utd?
Based on the system Ten Hag deployed this season, Mount appears most suited for one of the two No 8 positions usually taken up by Eriksen and Fernandes with Casemiro deployed behind as an anchor.
Although, as he’s shown under Tuchel, Mount can also have an impact on the game as part of a front three on either wing. In that sense, he could fulfil a very similar role to Fernandes, potentially lightening the burden on the Portugal midfielder.
In the No 8 role, Mount would be expected to contribute both offensively and defensively, although most of his time would be spent in the opposition’s half.
Ten Hag likes his No 8s to push high up the pitch to pin back the opposition. This would likely suit Mount as he has enjoyed great success when operating in those half spaces further up the pitch. He also has the energy to stretch opposition defences when operating in the final third.
One of United’s better team goals this season was Rashford’s effort that doubled their lead during a 2-1 home win over Crystal Palace in February – and it highlighted just how Ten Hag wants his No 8s to set up offensively.
Looking at the image below, we can see right from the goalkeeper’s possession that the two advanced midfielders – Fernandes and Casemiro (highlighted) – are positioned high up the pitch to stretch the gap between Palace’s striker and the midfield.
This is done to create space for the goalkeeper, defenders and holding midfielder as they build up the play.
The next phase of the attack shows the two No 8s are now joining the attackers to create a front five and overload the opposition defence. This shape can be fluid and relies on the energy and movement of the advanced midfielders stretching the defence, often by going into wide areas.
As the below image shows both Casemiro and Fernandes are now on the move and looking for the ball.
In the final image, Fernandes has made a run out right while Casemiro offers an inside option. Mount, having played as a No 10 and in wide positions, has the ability to deliver a cross or play in those tight, half spaces.
In this instance, Aaron Wan-Bissaka opted to pass to Casemiro. He then played a first-time pass inside to Alejandro Garnacho, who spread it out to Luke Shaw and his low cross was converted by Rashford.
What is easy to miss here is that while Fernandes doesn’t directly impact the play, his run out wide allows Antony to come in off the right and, in turn, create space for Garnacho who gets the pre-assist.
Ten Hag is relying heavily on his No 8s to create, whether that’s in or out of possession.
His system appears to be well-suited to a player of Mount’s skill set. And, as the demands of the position are intensive, it makes sense to have depth to allow rotation between Eriksen, Fernandes and, if successful, Mount, too.