Mason Mount was supposed to be Mr. Chelsea. Frank Lampard's protégé joined the Blues' academy ranks as a six-year-old way back in 2005, and graduated into the first team squad 12 years later with bags of potential and enthusiasm.
After successful loan spells at Vitesse and Derby County, he made his breakthrough at Stamford Bridge in 2019-20 under Lampard, and quickly became a key player. Mount's versatility made him a useful asset for Chelsea, as he can shift between traditional No.8 and No.10 roles seamlessly and fill in out wide in a front three or as a holding midfielder.
The England international picked up back-to-back Player of the Season awards at Chelsea in 2020-21 and 2021-22 while becoming a Champions League winner, and was also very highly regarded by Lampard's successor, Thomas Tuchel. "He is very mature and at the same time has this young player’s sparkle in his eyes," the German coach said after his first few months at the club.
But that sparkle disappeared last season. Tuchel lost his job after a poor start to the campaign and Chelsea suffered an alarming decline under his replacement, Graham Potter, before Lampard was drafted back in as interim manager. Chelsea ended up finishing 12th in the Premier League, with Mount only managing to contribute three goals and two assists to their cause.
The 24-year-old was without question one of the worst performers in an over-inflated squad. And yet, he became Manchester United's primary transfer target at the start of the summer window. The Red Devils tabled three rejected bids for Mount, before caving and agreeing to a deal worth the £60 million ($76m) the Blues were hoping for, despite the fact his contract is due to expire in 2024.
United could have walked away from the deal entirely if the Blues were not willing to compromise, which may have been for the best. Mount is most certainly not the kind of signing that will excite the Old Trafford faithful and make them optimistic about a potential title charge in 2023-24.