Today will see Manchester United take on bitter Pennines rivals Leeds in their first pre-season friendly of 2023.
Although the Reds aren’t expected to deploy a full strength lineup, new signing Mason Mount is likely to make his debut following his £60 million move from Chelsea. This will be a key point of interest throughout, with Mount known to be a versatile attacking player who can operate in numerous starting positions.
But how is ten Hag likely to utilise Mount, and will the Dutchman’s system help to realise the Englishman’s full potential? Let’s get into it!
Understanding Mount’s Likely Role in ten Hag’s System
There’s no doubt that ten Hag is a disciple of Pep Guardiola’s management school, with this most evident in the Dutchman’s midfield shape and setup.
More specifically, ten Hag likes to deploy a relatively compact and fluid three-man midfield, which typically comprises a holding midfielder and two attack-minded number eights. These players will often operate in the half spaces on the left and right-hand sides of the pitch, while also retaining enough positional awareness and discipline to drop deeper during defensive phases of the game.
With this mind, Mount is likely to have been recruited to play as one of ten Hag’s advanced number eights in 2023/24, alongside Bruno Fernandes and just in front of the imperious Casemiro.
This was a role largely fulfilled by Christian Eriksen last season, although the Dane looked especially fatigued after returning from an ankle injury during the second half of the campaign. With Donny Van de Beek also struggling for form and fitness at Old Trafford, Mount will be given the opportunity to play centrally influence games in the attacking third.
Is Mount a Good Fit for the Role?
The £60 million signing of Mount has divided opinion among fans, both in terms of the player’s qualities and the size of the transfer fee (the player only had one year left on his contract at Stamford Bridge). It’s certainly fair to say that United’s executives don’t boast the best negotiation skills or an understanding of impassivity, and they may not fare well when betting through the Jack Poker official site.
However, Mount’s best season came in 2021/22, where despite the Blues’ off-field struggles, he managed to score 13 goals and provide 16 assists in 53 matches. Under the tutelage of Thomas Tuchel, Mount was often deployed in an attacking midfield position behind a central striker during the campaign, where he was able to assume many of the positions that he will be asked to take up under ten Hag.
Certainly, playing centrally and with freedom to exploit the half spaces suits Mount’s profile, with the 24-year-old renowned for his football intelligence, creativity and eye for goal. Similarly, he boasts excellent mobility and a strong work ethic, which prove invaluable for teams that want to press collectively and high up the pitch.
Mount’s ability and awareness also enable him to drop a little deeper and influence the game from the middle of the park as and when required, and this was something that characterised Christian Eriksen’s game for much of last season.
The Last Word
While it’s easy to scoff at Mount’s transfer fee, it’s important to remember that this creative midfielder is still only 24 years old and still some years away from his peak despite boasting 281 club career appearances.
At the same time, his skillset is arguably best deployed in central attacking areas, but despite this, he has spent much of his career playing on the left-hand side of a front three.
Ultimately, this represents an excellent signing for the Old Trafford club, especially when you consider ten Hag’s playing style and preferred midfield structure. He’s certainly an upgrade on Eriksen, especially in terms of his physicality and ability to get around the pitch, and this should helps the Reds to be more competitive off-the-ball next season.