Mason Mount is now a Manchester United player as manager Erik ten Hag looks to inject fresh impetus into his side and build on an encouraging first season in charge.
Mount, 24, has been an important player for the Blues since breaking into their first team in 2019-20, but will he fit in at Old Trafford? And how?
‘A top player and a top lad’
United’s desire to sign Mount is understandable.
Here is an industrious, intelligent, creative midfielder, entering his prime with a wealth of Premier League and international experience under his belt. What is not to like? Digging deeper only makes the case more compelling.
Since making his Blues debut in 2019 – following successful loan spells in the Netherlands with Vitesse Arnhem and the Championship with Derby – Mount has amassed 195 appearances for the club, scoring 33 goals.
He helped Chelsea win the Champions League in 2021, starting in the final against Manchester City, and also has Fifa Club World Cup and Uefa Super Cup medals in his collection.
Like many in Chelsea’s squad last season, Mount struggled for form, which was compounded by injury issues. In what became a turbulent and fraught campaign for the Blues, which they ended 12th in the Premier League, he was abused by some fans on social media.
However, he has few bigger advocates than the man who was his boss on loan at Derby, handed him his Chelsea debut and under whose management he spent the back end of 2022-23.
“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,” said Frank Lampard in April.
“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 and a top lad.
“The first thing a top player should have is a real hunger to succeed and play and do well for Chelsea, and he’s had that since the first day I took him to Derby. That’s simple for me. He’s still a young player. He can go even further but he’s already a top player.”
It is a sentiment echoed by England boss Southgate, who has given the player 36 caps, including four at the World Cup finals in Qatar.
“He is an exceptional player,” said Southgate. “He finds space intelligently, he manipulates the ball very well, he creates chances and he scores goals.”
Southgate’s England have benefited to the tune of five goals from Mount. His best scoring season for Chelsea came in 2021-22, during which he provided 13 across all competitions. The 58 chances he created that season were also the most of any Chelsea player.
An upgrade on Eriksen at Old Trafford?
Mount is a versatile midfielder, capable of operating in an attacking role at number 10, or in from the right or left. He has even occasionally operated as a false nine for the Blues.
He will be an option in a front three behind a central striker, but with Bruno Fernandes, Alejandro Garnacho, Jadon Sancho, Antony and Christian Eriksen, Ten Hag is hardly short of players in that role. Marcus Rashford is another who could play in that three, particularly if United sign a striker this summer.
It is understood Ten Hag values Mount’s versatility, but views him primarily as an attacking midfielder, which puts him in direct competition with Eriksen.
With Marcel Sabitzer having returned to Bayern Munich following his loan spell and Eriksen in his 30s, United could see Mount as a younger, more mobile upgrade for a creative role.
Since making his Premier League debut in August 2019, he has 22 assists to his name – 26 players have more in the English top flight in that timescale.
In the 2021-22 league campaign – the last in which he featured for more than 2,000 minutes – he averaged 6.25 progressive passes per 90 minutes (putting him in the 93rd percentile according to fbref.com, making him one of the better performers among his peers in the division).
He also averaged, per 90 minutes, 2.21 key passes (90th percentile), 0.26 expected assists (97th percentile) and 4.53 shot-creating actions (87th percentile).
In signing Mount, United are making a statement of intent to kick on from a good first season under Ten Hag that delivered their first piece of silverware in six years – the Carabao Cup – and saw them return to the Champions League.
Question marks over Sancho or Antony?
BBC Sport’s Simon Stone
The move for Mason Mount is a fascinating development, if only because Manchester United would seem to have greater priorities in other areas of the pitch and the restriction on their summer budget is well known.
He clearly doesn’t address the centre-forward position which is an obvious area of weakness and he will not supplement the defensive midfield unit either.
However, what Mount provides is another creative option. In addition to being able to find room in tight spaces and having the vision to open up defences, Gareth Southgate has felt Mount is diligent in his defensive work, which is something United have had a problem with and Erik ten Hag is keen to solve.
It will also mean there is not as much need to play Christian Eriksen quite so often. After the Dane returned from injury last season, he didn’t have a sustained impact across a whole game.
Nevertheless, if Ten Hag continues to operate with three attacking players behind a central striker, and Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes are both deemed automatic choices, it does place question marks over Jadon Sancho and Antony, who between them cost United in excess of £150m.
A version of this piece was first published on 23 June 2023