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Why are Manchester United interested in Mason Mount?

by Seth Dooley

David Ornstein of The Athletic has confirmed reports that Manchester United are seriously interested in Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount. The Muppetiers have been relaying this for weeks as the Englishman prepares to run down his contract in west London. So why exactly are United weighing up a move and what could Mount bring to Erik ten Hag’s midfield?

Mount, 24, has not enjoyed a season nearly as successful as last. His statistics, by which attacking midfielders are ultimately (and with prejudice) measured, shine a light on Chelsea’s malfunctioning squad. Last season, working under Thomas Tuchel, Mount scored 13 goals in all competitions and contributed 16 assists; this season, in contrast, he has notched only three goals and six assists.

A player like Mount should not be immediately written off – which many football fans are keen to instantly do nowadays – due to his undoubted quality. Operating as both a central midfield playmaker and as a pure No. 10, Mount is rightly recognised as a definitive Premier League standard player. At 20 years old and in his first season as a Chelsea regular, he immediately made an impact in the shape of eight goals and six assists.

He was not afraid to learn his trade, acquire unique skills, and develop different aspects of his game and mentality. At 18 years old, Mount went on loan to Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie, where he finished the season by lifting the club’s Player of the Year accolade. He was also deemed to be one of the best in the League that year and was placed in the Eredivisie Team of the Season.

Ten Hag’s favouring of players who have experienced Dutch football has been rife to the point where it has now become somewhat of a gimmick after Wout Weghorst signed in January. Mount’s year abroad in the Netherlands should by no means damage his credibility to join Ten Hag’s ranks at United, especially if the new owners continue to revolve their transfer strategy around the manager’s preferences rather than that of the recruitment department.

During his most successful season (2021/22), Mount’s stats consistently placed him as one of the best midfielders in the world.

Eager to get forward and nab a goal or deftly thread a ball through for forwards, Mount averaged 3.01 carries into the attacking third, which put him in the 92nd percentile when compared with other central and attacking midfielders, as per FBRef. He made 2.32 passes into the penalty area and 6.25 progressive passes in general every 90 minutes (97th and 93rd percentile, respectively). As a result of such endeavour to get the ball forward and to threaten opposition defences, Mount produced 4.53 shot-creating actions and 0.72 goal-creating actions per Premier League match.

What would make him an ideal candidate for Ten Hag is his willingness to contribute in transitional moments. Last season, Mount made 0.53 tackles in the attacking third (96th percentile) and this season he has tackled 47.6% of dribblers who have come up against him (88th percentile). There is clearly something to say about his maturity in developing his game and ability to make well-timed tackles, as well as his successful workrate off-the-ball during turnovers and counterpressing instances.

United need to strengthen their midfield depth. The team has played the most games in Europe so far this season and, all being well, will tally up a similar number next season too.

The midfield’s inadequacy was highlighted during Casemiro’s double red card spell and Christian Eriksen’s time in the recovery room. Mount could be a very suitable midfielder to come in and subsidise Eriksen’s role in the team; especially if Ten Hag can oust quality out off him when deployed in the deeper position. If he is able to assimilate into Ten Hag’s Total Football ideals, Mount could provide reliable cover and genuine competition to Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes, whilst Marcel Sabitzer’s all-round versatility and quality would be valuable for an entire season, if he is to sign permanently.

One year is left on his contract and the love affair with Chelsea appears to have lost its spark. With many doubters this year, Mount’s character is one who thrives off proving them wrong. Old Trafford may be the best place to do that.

Chelsea need to get rid of players, fast. The squad at Stamford Bridge is, literally, piling outside the dressing room. With Mount being a soon-to-be free agent, Todd Boehly and his hectic recruitment team may evaluate United’s interest as the ideal time to bring in some cash. However, he should not be expecting an extortionate amount.

If Mount is to be signed on a cheap deal, Sabitzer is bought for €20million, and Scott McTominay is sold for a decent fee, Ten Hag would have fantastic options in midfield whilst working within budget to invest heavily elsewhere.

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