Would signing Mason Mount from Manchester United make sense? Mostly…

Manchester United will play the Champions League again next season.

A slightly bizarre 4-1 home win over Chelsea on Thursday sent Erik ten Hag’s men into the top four with one game to play.

Qualification for UEFA’s top club competition will allow United’s senior executives to initiate their plans for the summer.

Mason Mount appears to be the leader of these plans.

The 24-year-old was unavailable for Chelsea last night due to a pelvic injury but remains the man of the moment for both clubs. While Chelsea would like to secure the England midfielder’s long-term future with a new contract, Mount is believed to be leaning towards a move to Manchester United this summer, with talks expected between the two clubs shortly.

One can only imagine how he felt about the first half at Old Trafford, where both teams looked uncertain how to play should possession be lost.

Mount may have found himself swayed by the actions of Casemiro, who headed Christian Eriksen’s free-kick to put United ahead in the sixth minute before providing a stately ball just before the half-time whistle. -time. The Brazilian’s pass found Jadon Sancho, who raced behind the Chelsea defense before coming in against Anthony Martial, who doubled the lead.

This season has seen several United players improve playing alongside last summer’s £70m ($86.4m at current exchange rates) buy Casemiro. Should Mount join in the upcoming window, he too could take advantage of the defensive security and assists offered by the five-time Champions League winner. But now that Champions League football is secure, should Mount and United make a deal?

His playing profile makes him a natural candidate for Ten Hag… should he join the coach of his Ajax sides, who have come to play a 4-3-3 with midfielders such as Lasse Schone, Frenkie de Jong, Steven Berghuis and Ryan Gravenberch as the box-to-box midfielders.

This mooted transfer to Ten Hag’s United has potential, but might not be a seamless adaptation.

The most obvious decision would be for him to replace Eriksen alongside Casemiro in the starting XI.

If Luke Shaw were to remain an overlapping full-back, he could combine with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho on the United left, while Mount would make late entries in the final third.

All three of these players enjoyed varying success against Chelsea on Thursday, with Shaw being substituted at half-time as a precautionary measure due to a back injury. Rashford – in place of the injured Antony after half an hour – scored his side’s fourth goal to cap the victory. Antony’s injury also saw Sancho move to the right wing, the position he was supposed to play for in the summer of 2021, and he had one of his best games at United, attacking the space behind Conor Gallagher and bonding with his teammates.

All three would find their skills complemented by a player such as Mount.

Suppose Ten Hag has instructed one of his full-backs to reverse and join Casemiro in central midfield. If so, it’s possible that Mount will move on to join Bruno Fernandes, creating the kind of midfielder that has made Brighton, Arsenal and Manchester City so dangerous this season.

Mount’s move to United would be a gamble for both player and club, as it would mean asking a most comfortable midfielder as a cog in an already well-functioning machine to take on significant responsibilities regarding operation of the whole mechanism.

Managers such as Gareth Southgate and Thomas Tuchel have enjoyed having Mount as an option as he is seven-for-eight out of 10 in everything you would expect from an attacking midfielder. But they picking him repeatedly because he’s eight to nine out of 10 in defensive duties.

The greatest games of Mount’s career have often seen him tasked with winning the ball from the opposition’s deepest midfield before moving forward and assisting his side in counter-attacking moves.

It worked well in Chelsea’s 2021 Champions League final victory, with Mount and N’Golo Kante sabotaging Manchester City’s plans. It didn’t work out so well in the European Championship final against Italy a few months later, where Mount was overwhelmed by Marco Verratti’s clever exchanges and moves with Jorginho.

Chelsea looked poorer last night partly due to Mount’s injury. In his absence, Fernandes had greater freedom in central midfield, allowing him to attack Frank Lampard’s side at will. Conversely, United looked soft in central midfield in part due to Eriksen’s lack of mobility and physicality in defensive moments.

Ten Hag’s men won 4-1 because they were better than a sloppy and unmotivated Chelsea. By securing a top-four finish and winning the Carabao Cup in his debut season, Ten Hag has exceeded many United fans’ pre-season predictions, but there are more challenges ahead.

“This club belongs in the Champions League,” Ten Hag said full-time. “Finishing in the top four was the main objective. The competition is tough, there are a lot of teams with very good squads, good managers and high budgets.

“For the moment, it’s (the top 4) the maximum, but we want more and I don’t have a lot of patience. Standards must rise. Manchester City play exceptional football but we still have a long way to go.

United will now finish the season with at least 72 points, an impressive tally but far behind the league champions’ minimum of 89. The United manager is aware of what it takes to go from top four to title contenders (he also said ‘We need better players if we want to compete for the top level’ when asked about the constitution of the team after the Chelsea match).

Mount could be a potential signing to help close that gap. The Englishman could provide the same progressive passes, set pieces and late entries into the box as Eriksen, while improving United’s defensive intensity when out of possession. There is a method in United’s pursuit of someone younger than the Dane who can provide similar attacking power and superior defensive toughness.

The question is whether ‘better than other Eriksen/United box-to-box midfielders’ is a good enough benchmark for what United want to achieve in future seasons.

(Photo: Piero Cruciatti/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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