If there is one positive to take from Manchester United’s prolonged pursuit of Mason Mount, it is that they are learning from the mistakes of last summer. United spent 100 days infatuated with a move for Frenkie de Jong a year ago before marking their century with the signing of Casemiro
The situation of Mount is different but shares enough similarities. Instead of it being the player who doesn’t want to join, this time the sticking point is with the club instead.
United had no issue agreeing a fee with Barcelona, just as agreeing personal terms with Mount has been, though this time it is Chelsea who have proved to be the stumbling block Erik ten Hag is a huge admirer of the Chelsea midfielder, but with a restricted summer budget and bigger priorities lying elsewhere, they can’t afford to be drawn into needless transfer games.
There is an acceptance that a ‘United tax’ still exists, and rival clubs will always look to extract as much money as possible from them in the transfer market, but it’s a sign of encouragement that they are gradually learning from those mistakes.
While there are certain players worth blowing the budget on, United know that signing a midfielder isn’t as important as signing a striker or goalkeeper this summer, and certainly not Mount.
It might well be different if it were another pursuit for a top target like De Jong or Declan Rice, but there must be an acceptance that even the highest offer they saw rejected for Mount is generous for a player who is out of contract in a year’s time.
United will move on from their top midfield target a lot quicker than they did last year, but just like a year ago, the failed pursuit could actually lead them to a player they need even more.
Mount would certainly add plenty to the squad should he arrive before deadline day, though he is hardly a star name and not one who you’d expect to completely transform the side.
It would be a different case if they managed to sign Moises Caicedo instead.
United were working on a €6million deal to sign the Ecuadorian youngster in December 2020, but discussions were compromised by the involvement of various intermediaries. A source told that the deal became ‘too messy’ to proceed, another described negotiations as a ‘clusterfuck’.
In the end, the then-teenager moved to Brighton for around €6million. It’s been suggested they could charge as much as £80million for him this summer.
Caicedo is an exceptional talent, though he might never have progressed so quickly had he been parachuted into the United side at such a time. He could well have suffered from the turmoil that followed at Old Trafford in the two-and-a-half years since, and his hefty price tag is compensation for a club that took the risk they were unwilling to gamble on
The 21-year-old would not only help ease United’s reliance on Casemiro, something they were prepared to overlook this summer, but he has also shown brilliant versatility as both a central midfielder and a right-back.
His combination of outstanding ability, versatility, and the fact he is already Premier League proven at such a young age would certainly make him a standout summer signing, and supporters would likely rather spend more on him than Mount.
Once again, it comes down to priorities. Caicedo certainly appears to be a leading candidate to bolster their midfield options this summer, but a move for him could wipe out a large chunk of their budget for other areas of squad rebuilding.
The harsh reality is that their summer business must focus on signing both a world-class striker and a goalkeeper, and only then should they be looking to reinforce their midfield.