3 questions about Manchester United’s signing of Mason Mount

18 July 2023 - 11:32 pm


Manchester United have signed the first major signings of the 2023 summer transfer window. After weeks of aggressively courting Chelsea’s star midfielder Mason Mount, they have finally agreed a deal with the Blues, who are extending talks just for a bit more money.

According to The Athletic’s David Ornstein, the Red Devils will end up spending £55m plus another £5m in add-ons to sign Mount.

Mount is one of the most recognizable players in the Premier League and will be crucial for Chelsea to win the 2020/21 Champions League. However, United fans should have some legitimate concerns about the cost of the deal and the way Mount will fit into the team.

Let’s take a closer look at three of these issues. Rather than highlighting that Mason Mount is not a great footballer or that he will “fail” at United, these issues are explored as a means of discussing the financial investment and potentially problematic implications of signings. Nuance is key.

transaction cost

A total of £60m for Mason Mount represents United’s apparent overpayment and lack of patience in the transfer market. Paying that much for a 24-year-old playmaker isn’t necessarily overpaying, as he’s an established Premier League player and his direct rivals could theoretically be closer to the top of the table in a few seasons.

The real question is that United can sign Mount for free within a year. Chelsea have no real leverage in the negotiations, as Mount has made it clear he wants to move to Manchester and has no intention of staying in London. As such, United could have easily shifted their focus to the Blues’ top target, Moises Caicedo, and partnered him with Casemiro on a midfield basis that included either Jadon Sancho or Bruno · Fernandez served as the core of the organization.

Instead, United spent £60m, money that could have been used to sign a top striker. Perhaps they have given up on Victor Osimhen and the massive €150m price tag set by Napoli.

Still, they could easily spend a little more on the Randal Kolo Muani as there is a greater demand in the market and it costs more. More specifically, Kolo Muani has a better 2022/23 season than Mount.

not an ideal choice

Mason Mount could fill two roles in midfield and be worth £60m at a sufficiently high level in any case but on a one-year deal. Due to his goalscoring and assisting prowess, he is a talented 10th player who is one of the league’s top players with 11 goals and 10 assists in the 2021/22 Premier League season.

But as No. 10s are being phased out of the modern game and only truly special playmakers can fill the role, Mount is primarily an asset in a 4-3-3 system as a No. 8. He is at his best in midfield, as the opposition’s eight are more defensive and have better possession, allowing Mount to aggressively push forward and enter the half to score and assist. Chelsea in 2020/21 and 2021/22 offer him good ground, with N’Golo Kante on the other side.

United adopted a midfield trio with two holding midfielders so they could have a playmaker, with Bruno Fernandes creating the most shots on goal in European football last season (219).

As such, Mount is not a good fit as United do not play a 4-3-3 formation, where the No.8 advances the game on the counter-attack, or enters the half to swap positions with the striker in possession.

They could try to use him as a right flank, double with Casemiro as a holding midfielder, allowing the defensive midfielder to drop deeper to cover possession. Ten Hager could use Mount and Fernandes as a double-headed attacking midfield monster, like Manchester City, or possibly Kai Havertz and Martin Odegaard’s Arsenal.

The problem is, it doesn’t seem like the smartest financial investment. Spending £60m on such a player doesn’t seem like the best plan when Arsenal spend £65m on a younger and significantly better player in the same team.

Bruno Fernandez

Assuming United’s game system is that Mason Mount pushes up and occupies the central attacking space alongside Bruno Fernandes. It’s hard to see the two players co-existing, as Fernandes is not someone who thrives on the combination like Chelsea’s Havertz or Timo Werner. Fernandes likes to have the ball. He needs to feel the ball and play like a “quarterback.” I’m not trying to compare him to Lionel Messi, but it’s kind of like a situation where he needs to feel important in the team and have the ball. Similar configuration files cannot coexist.

The reality is that, for all his flaws as a true midfielder, Fernandes is a better pure playmaker than Mount. As the stats show, no one in European football creates as many chances as Fernandes and you can imagine him being capable of dishing out 20 assists with a better striker. Fernandes averaged a staggering 3.2 key passes per game last season, leading the Premier League and the 28-year-old is at the peak of his career.

Instead, United paid for a less-than-stellar raw playmaker who, by the way, could have moved Sancho to a No. 10 in the game to ease the pressure on Fernandes if necessary.

United already have a playmaker. If they wanted to sign a No. 8 at center like Casemiro, they could sign a player with more playmaking ability at the deep end or a more versatile player as an improved player. Instead, they signed a No. 8 or No. 10 support playmaker, which was in direct conflict with a player in Fernandes, whose contract until 2026 would not leave Manchester anytime soon.