How will Mason Mount fit in at Manchester United: Goal threat, adaptable, presses

Manchester United are on the verge of landing their man.

It took four bids to award Mason Mount of Chelsea – the clincher, as reported by The athletic, an offer of £55million plus £5million in add-ons – but their persistence is paying off. The midfielder is due for a medical in Manchester on Monday, with United’s willingness to strike a deal indicative of the esteem in which they hold the player.

Erik ten Hag was fully behind the move for the 24-year-old, having followed Mount since the player spent the 2017-18 season on loan at Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie. Mount shone during Vitesse’s 3-2 win over Ten Hags Ajax in March 2018.

Five years on, Ten Hag wants to bring Mount to Old Trafford for his technique on the ball but also, importantly, his application off it. He is seen at United as a modern midfielder capable of carrying out specific tactical instructions and leading the press, a key component of Ten Hag’s approach.

His last season at Chelsea was affected by injury and did not have a stable position. However, in 2021–22 he scored 11 times and made 10 assists in the Premier League – one of only three players to do so that season. It is this output that United feel they can further exploit.

His versatility is also part of what appeals to United. He has predominantly played as a No.10, which is the role mainly occupied by Bruno Fernandes, but also at times last season by Wout Weghorst. Mount offers a much better fit when Ten Hag chooses to move Fernandes to the wing or rest him.

“Mount is a front-foot player, with a good goalscoring record, who can protect the ball in high positions, I think he is a bit less rash than Fernandes,” said a source – speaking anonymously to protect relationships – who has worked with United .

Mount can also play deeper and signing a mobile No.8 has been on United’s wish list. Christian Eriksen enjoyed a good season after signing on a free transfer but tended to tire in games, whereas Mount is expected to maintain his energy for the whole match. He has also occasionally played on the left, which would give Marcus Rashford flexibility to go up front.

Despite a poor season in an unbalanced Chelsea side, Mount brings plenty of positives to Old Trafford. Athletics drilling into the data to see how he will fit in.

At Chelsea, Mount’s positional versatility has allowed him to gain a wealth of experience at the highest level. He only turns 25 in January, yet he has already played nearly 12,000 minutes in the Premier League and Champions League since breaking into the first team, more than any other player at the club.

Across four varied seasons in three different systems, the Cobham graduate became a firm favorite with every manager; ranking in the top five players in league minutes under Frank Lampard, Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter. His energy, flexibility and availability consistently gave him the edge in an ultra-competitive team.

Looking at his touch cards over the past two campaigns, his adaptability is clear to see.

His prolific 2021–22 campaign saw the majority of his attacks in the right channel, with a high proportion coming in advanced areas on the right side of the field, a zone from which he created 24 chances and provided three assists.

Last year, however, Mount was drawn to the left, tending to operate in deeper areas and tasked with advancing the ball. Generally further away from goal his attacking measurements suffered, but almost total coverage of the attacking half illustrates his comfort receiving the ball in a wide range of situations across the pitch.

In this respect, Mount’s technical ability and two-footedness often allow him to wriggle out of high-pressure situations and keep the ball moving. Unconstrained by awkward passing angles, he is able to spread play both left and right with relative accuracy, while keeping things shorter and safer when facing his own goal.

As his passport sonar confirms, given his varied role over the past two seasons, Mount is capable of turning 360° with the ball at his feet and links up with his teammates, adding not only an unpredictability to his game but also security on the ball as United look to build up from the back.

It also shows that he is a positive passer of the ball with a solid forward accuracy of 64.6 percent in the 2022-23 season.

Not world-beating stats, but more examples of pleasing technical ability to add to an already well-rounded, malleable skill set that will be useful for Ten Hag across the board.

In more attacking situations, Mount’s key strength lies in his evasive movement, constantly ghosting into gaps between the opposition defense and midfield to receive the pass and turn. Even in his more conservative role this season, Mount averaged 6.2 progressive passes per snap. match, around the same speed as Bruno Fernandes.

His performances are littered with examples like the one below against Newcastle, where he scans over his shoulder several times before dropping into a pocket of space to create the passing angle. He then turns, brings the ball forward and finds Kai Havertz in a more advanced position.

Here again against Brentford, Mount chooses to drop out between the lines and picks up the ball from Kalidou Koulibaly.

He thus pulls Mads Roerslev out of his defensive shape and forces Zanka to step across and cover Marc Cucurella. Central space opens up for Havertz and Mount shoots the pass through.

In short, Mount can be a useful pivot in midfield – he consistently creates the passing opportunity, receives the ball in advanced areas and continues to move it forward himself.

Able to bring this ability to the left side of midfield if Eriksen needs support, or indeed the right where United were often a bit light in attacking build-up last season, Mount can certainly bring positivity and imagination across the width of ​​the last third.

Last campaign was arguably Mount’s toughest, but early evidence suggests he should be able to chip in with attacking returns himself.

Across his four-year Premier League career, he has six more goals than any Chelsea teammate, as well as seven more assists, for a total of 49 assists. With an average of 2.5 shots per match across this time, he is a player who likes to get into the box late, but also relies on his handy shot technique from distance, as seen by his shot card below.

Creatively too, Mount is able to push through that killer pass when the opportunity presents itself. His delivery from wide areas is particularly good, averaging 4.8 crosses per game. match and he is happy to make overlapping runs into the channels to get into those crossing positions. Last season only Havertz averaged more off-the-ball runs for Chelsea in the Premier League, again pointing to that energy and enthusiasm from midfield.

His set piece delivery will be another bonus as he has provided 13 assists from set piece situations in the past five seasons – only four players in the Premier League have since provided more. He tends to favor the flat, whipped cross towards the goalkeeper, for intrusive defenders to help on the way.

Mount only scored three times and had two assists in the Premier League last season, so he has offensive points to prove. With a similarly hard-working Bruno Fernandes alongside him, a flexible midfield structure should give the 24-year-old ample opportunity to find his way into more valuable goalscoring positions.

Even with such solid attacking numbers, however, probably the biggest benefit of Mount’s arrival will be the defensive tenacity he brings to the counter-press.

Ten Hag looked to struggle to fill both No.8 positions last season with athletic off-the-ball midfielders, both technically and physically able to leap into challenges as soon as the ball is lost to keep constant pressure on the opponent.

Most drastically, the manager deployed six-foot-five forward Weghorst in the left half in a dramatic 2-2 draw against Barcelona at Camp Nou, and subsequently against Leicester City in the Premier League, as below.

However, Mount reliably brings high energy off the ball, having used an average of 12.8 pressures in the middle third per game. game last season, the second most of any Chelsea player behind Conor Gallagher.

Again, looking at the past two seasons, the 24-year-old’s tackle and interception charts reveal a defensive tenacity across the middle third. Able to step in and win the ball across the pitch, he can play a part in any defensive role in the central third, and will often work hard to organize the press from inside.

Mount has been perfecting this side of his game for several years. He won the Under-19 European Championship with England in 2017, playing at No.10 in a team that included Reece James and Aaron Ramsdale. In the final against Portugal, where he set up two goals, Mount met Manchester United full-back Diogo Dalot.

He was essential to the team’s work out of possession, acting as a catalyst for England’s press, with other forwards such as Ryan Sessegnon, Ben Brereton-Diaz, Isaac Buckley-Ricketts and Lukas Nmecha working around his lead.

Eric Steele was at that tournament with England, which was managed by Keith Downing, now first-team coach at Birmingham. Steele, who is a goalkeeping coach, tells Athletics: “We used to set the trap, Mason was like that. If we lost the ball, he would apply the pressure. He would know and go first, they would all follow him. We would work on it in practice, but he was the one who knew how to set the trigger.

“He would either lead by example or say, ‘I’m going,’ and he would go. You always need someone to either do it or say it. He did both. So we could drop in the middle of the block , and he said, ‘No problem, we’ll just drop.’ So it meant that if Nmecha jumped, Mount knew exactly where to go and drop in behind.”

Steele, who worked at United for five years between 2008 and 2013, added: “He knows the game, he’s a very intelligent player. He can score goals. He’s one of the most perfect 10s I’ve seen. He was our front line, our maestro, he set the tone, good with both feet, then he could see a pass, which is important, and he would go beyond the front man.

“He’s great at getting the ball, which will suit Ten Hag. He’s not a tackler, he knocks the ball off people, he’s smart.”

All in all, this deal certainly seems like a step in the right direction for Manchester United.

Ten Hag has secured a player he wants after tough negotiations at what the club feel is a fair price, taking a coveted player off the market in the process. And Mount, with his best years ahead of him, has the fresh start he needs after a difficult campaign just ended.

Lively and adaptable, while neat and progressive on the ball, Mount certainly represents an upgrade from playing forwards out of position in midfield, while his flexibility could be a problem-solver if injuries hit United again.

There is still work to be done for the club in the summer window, not least recruiting an elite goalscorer and a comfortable distributor between the sticks. There have been talks about Andre Onana, although the pursuit of a new No. 9, proven at the top level, is the priority.

Mount isn’t that goalscorer – he’s certainly not that goalkeeper – but he’s a lot of things in between.

Now, pending the results of Monday’s medical examination, Ten Hag will be happy to secure her husband.


Man United agree Mount deal: How did we get here? Why is this happening now?

(Photo in top image: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images. Designed by Sam Richardson)

Leave a Comment