Man United didn't need him and at Chelsea he's a 'traitor'. Mason Mount is a victim and it shows how shamefully poor the big clubs' decision-making is, writes IAN LADYMAN

Mason Mount has endured a difficult first season since joining Man United 

Kai Havertz is the Champions League final goal scorer who fell from the edge of the football cliff only to climb back up again. Sadly the young Englishman who played the wonderful, inch perfect pass through to Havertz as Chelsea beat Manchester City in Porto back three years ago next weekend is still lying amid the rocks on the beach.

Mason Mount, still only 25, is an example of how quickly things can turn against you in football. Bad decisions, bad luck and bad form can all draw the clouds across the face of the sun pretty quickly.

But Mount’s retreat into the shadows of the English game talks to more than just individual misfortune. No, the root cause of it runs deeper and is indicative of just how shamefully poor the strategy and decision making continues to be at some of our biggest clubs.

Mount is the young academy product sold by one club who really could not afford to lose him and bought by another, Manchester United, who didn’t really need him. He is a victim of the short termism that still plagues the Premier League, of a culture that continues to view the future as somebody else’s problem.

Mount was a Chelsea boy from the age of six. Told by his father that he wouldn’t be given his chance at the club, he looked at John Terry, the club captain, and decided he would follow his path.

Mason Mount has endured a difficult first season since joining Manchester United last summer

Mason Mount has endured a difficult first season since joining Manchester United last summer

Mount was a homegrown superstar at Chelsea and never really wanted to leave the club

Mount was a homegrown superstar at Chelsea and never really wanted to leave the club

But a player that gave so much to the Blues is now viewed as a 'traitor' at Stamford Bridge

But a player that gave so much to the Blues is now viewed as a 'traitor' at Stamford Bridge

Podcast All episodes
  • EPISODE 90: How Manchester United CAN win crunch FA Cup clash
    EPISODE 90: How Manchester United CAN win crunch FA Cup clash
  • EPISODE 89: Why Manchester City aren't the reason the League is boring
    EPISODE 89: Why Manchester City aren't the reason the League is boring
  • 'It hasn't worked!' Is VAR the problem or the solution?
    'It hasn't worked!' Is VAR the problem or the solution?
  • EPISODE 87: Why United must tear down Old Trafford and move to Wembley
    EPISODE 87: Why United must tear down Old Trafford and move to Wembley
  • PODCAST: How many Manchester United players get in the Arsenal team?
    PODCAST: How many Manchester United players get in the Arsenal team?
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At times he had to move sideways to go forwards. At Vitesse Arnhem the club captain took one look at the teenage loanee and wondered why someone had sent a mascot in to the first team dressing room. Mount was voted Player of the Year that season.

He played for Derby in the Championship, too, and then returned to his home where he flourished. He won the Champions League, played in three FA Cup Finals and earned 36 England caps. He was talked of as a future Chelsea captain.

And then, last summer, Chelsea sold him. When he returned to the Bridge with United in April, the home supporters booed him and called him a traitor.

But Mount never really wanted to leave Chelsea. The reasons that he did so are complicated and contradictory when you listen to both sides of it. But the bottom line is that Mount felt he had not been made to feel fully valued, either by the Roman Abramovich regime or the bumbling, chaotic Todd Boehly era that has followed. Mount was one of Chelsea’s own, a good lad with talent to who had never looked beyond wearing a blue and white shirt.

If Mount had played at a club like Manchester City or Liverpool, he would have been drowning in the best contract the club could afford, tied down to a future so long that he could barely see all the way to the end of it.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, Chelsea had prevaricated on laying down the really big numbers. Mount, still on the same £80,000-a-week deal he signed as a 19-year-old on his return from Derby, looked around the dressing room and saw other, newer players arriving on far better salaries. He sensed the drift that had been allowed to set in after a Champions League triumph that should have been a springboard. So, despite a personal intervention by Boehly and the fact a contract was on the table, he left for Old Trafford last summer, a move that felt wrong right from the very start.

In Manchester, manager Erik ten Hag needed top players to make good a decent first season that had taken United back in to the Champions League. But his budget for the summer was a relatively modest £150m. With that in mind, it seems extraordinary now that the club chose to spend a third of it on Mount.

United needed a footballer who could transform their midfield. The Brazilian Casemiro had done it for a season but his legs were going. They needed a player to drag them forwards, both literally and metaphorically. They needed authority, a leader. They needed someone like Declan Rice, for example. Mount was never likely to be that player- it’s just not him - and it would be interesting to know who at Old Trafford ever thought he would be.

Injuries have ruined Mount’s first season at United. He has hardly played. If United manage to recruit well this summer, he may begin to adorn that midfield like he once did Chelsea’s. He is a smart passer and and an intelligent runner. But he was never going to do it all on is own. He does not have that presence or that authority, either as a player or an individual.

It seems extraordinary that United chose to spend a third of their budget on Mount last year

It seems extraordinary that United chose to spend a third of their budget on Mount last year

Mount is still an extremely talented midfielder, but his campaign has been riddled by injuries

Mount is still an extremely talented midfielder, but his campaign has been riddled by injuries

It really is boring seeing clubs like Chelsea, United and others spending an awful lot of money so very badly in an attempt to drag themselves on to the shoulder of Manchester City

It really is boring seeing clubs like Chelsea, United and others spending an awful lot of money so very badly in an attempt to drag themselves on to the shoulder of Manchester City

It’s been interesting this week listening to people tell me City have made the Premier League boring. City have not done that. City have set elite standards in terms of playing, coaching and recruiting. What has been boring has been watching clubs like Chelsea, United and others spending an awful lot of money so very badly in an attempt to drag themselves on to the shoulder of the four-times champions.

City continue to exist under the cloud of financial doping allegations and one day we will know the truth of all that. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned from the strategic structuring and planning of their whole football operation.

The English champions put 15 years of time, money and expertise into Phil Foden and he now has a sky blue world at his feet. Chelsea did likewise with Mason Mount and then watched him walk away.

 

Rodri wrong on Arsenal mentality claim 

The Manchester City midfielder Rodri has said Arsenal revealed a flaw in their psychological make-up when they came to the Etihad on Easter Sunday and played for a draw. That is the most ridiculous nonsense.

Arsenal took four points from City this season. They beat them at the Emirates back in October and got the draw they were looking for as the Premier League title race hotted up in the spring.

Their performance in Manchester was superb. Tactically smart, organised and diligent, Mikel Arteta’s team went home having ensured they were still in the fight at the top end of the table. It was as mature a performance as I have ever seen from a modern Arsenal team.

For sure that display and that result didn’t cost them the title. Back to back defeats to West Ham and Fulham in December probably did that.

And if we want to talk about mentality then it’s worth remembering that during that defeat at Arsenal in the autumn, City’s goalkeeper Ederson was booked in the first half for time wasting. There is not much about that particular tactic that screams ‘front foot football’ is there?

Rodri got it badly wrong when he made a dig at Arsenal's mentality after City won the league

Rodri got it badly wrong when he made a dig at Arsenal's mentality after City won the league

 

Southgate right to warn about lack of homegrown stars

Gareth Southgate wore socks with an England logo on them as he sat with the written media to discuss his Euro 2024 squad on Tuesday. Both inwardly and outwardly, his commitment to his country’s footballing welfare is never in doubt.

He’s a bright man, too, which is why when he repeats a previously articulated warning about declining numbers of English players in the Premier League we should listen.

Asked what would happen if Declan Rice got injured or suspended during this summer’s tournament, Southgate said: ‘I’ve talked a lot about [declining] numbers and players and of course people don’t want to hear it because we’ve got so much talent in certain other areas of the pitch ‘But the impact of those numbers is clear in certain positions. The truth is we don’t have another Rice type profile of player in the country.’

Southgate is right to warn about the declining numbers of English stars in the Premier League

Southgate is right to warn about the declining numbers of English stars in the Premier League

Southgate has warned before that future England managers will be picking players from the Championship. The Premier League tend to push back against that rather pessimistic view.

Nevertheless, of the 220 players who start top-flight games on any given weekend these days , about a third tend to be English. Whether you think that’s enough depends largely on how much you care about the future of the national team.

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