Man United have followed Gary Neville’s advice with unfashionable signing

4 minute read

Mason Mount has always, seemingly, been that guy for club and country.

No matter what they do or bring to the team, there are some players who are destined to be unfashionable with, certainly, those who only have a passing interest. For a long while themselves, United might have wondered what all the fuss was about at Chelsea for a homegrown chap deemed good enough to win 36 international caps.

Well they are about to find out. That after what has been a slow start to life in red for the player.

Among the countless jobs on his to-do list when he became United manager, Erik ten Hag needed to improve the engine room at his disposal. Despite being publicly side-stepped by Frenkie de Jong - his former Ajax protégé - the Dutchman has well and truly done that with three shrewd acquisitions inside 12 months.

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ALSO READ:Ten Hag is correcting United’s mistakes

With all due respect, Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Mount represent a notable upgrade on ‘McFred’ - the at times unkind nickname given to Scott McTominay and Fred amid their struggles in holding down the fort against the very top teams. The improvement in that position is all the more impressive, still, when you scratch beneath the surface.

Simultaneous to their attempts to bolster the United midfield, Ten Hag and key figures behind the scenes watched Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City in the Premier League alone deliver high-profile deals in that particular area. Real Madrid, meanwhile, have laid serious foundations for life after Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos by signing not one, or two, but three of the most highly-rated young players on the planet.

So while Old Trafford-linked Eduardo Camavinga, Aurelien Tchouameni and Jude Bellingham are Galácticos in wait, United had to go in a different direction and you get the feeling Ten Hag would not have had things any other way. Okay, he might have loved De Jong or Bellingham - but those decisions were out of hand.

In the make-up of his evolving United squad, Ten Hag knew exactly who to turn to provide the glue for glamorous options Antony, Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and the rest. It was the same man - championed so often by Gary Neville - who does that very job for England.

The transfer window is in full swing and United have got their hands on three players well in advance of the September 1 deadline, with Rasmus Hojlund joining Mason Mount and Andre Onana at Old Trafford.

A goalkeeper, a midfielder and a striker were Erik ten Hag’s priorities heading into the summer window, but that doesn’t mean their business ends here, with a move for Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat also on the cards, as well as plenty of possible departures, including Harry Maguire to West Ham.

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“Mason Mount is a coaches’ player - and I think that’s the best way to describe him,” said Neville prior to his switch to Old Trafford this summer. “There’ve been many I’ve seen in my lifetime in football, where they probably get more respect by the coaching staff for what they do than fans that are watching them.

“[Maybe that’s] Because their output in goals, or assists, or tackles or other things that are really noticeable maybe aren’t as much as people would like. But what they do do is glue teams together, they fill in gaps… they know when to trigger presses and win the ball back and counter-attack.”

So are rival fan-bases missing something when it comes to Mount? His numbers at Chelsea, a modest 33 goals and 37 assists from 195 appearances in all competitions, might not particularly catch the eye, but some have often been too heavily swayed by such statistics, especially looking at someone who is not your archetypical No.10.

In that sense, judging Mount in his United career will come elsewhere - it will rest in how he helps to bring Antony, Fernandes, Rashford and Rasmus Hojlund together. How, as Neville says, he will trigger the press and bring even more out of those around him.

Now that will not be easy to reflect in statistical data alone, but Old Trafford match-goers can determine from the eye test if Ten Hag and Neville are right.

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