Wearing the iconic No. 7 shirt adorned by Manchester United greats like Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham, Mason Mount became the club’s first signing of the offseason on Wednesday.
And upon completion of his 55 million pounds ($69 million) transfer from Chelsea, the 24-year-old midfielder declared his intention to emulate United’s stars of the past.
“I am hugely ambitious; I know how amazing it feels to win major trophies and what it takes to do it,” Mount said. ‘I will be giving everything to experience that again at Manchester United.”
The No. 7 has been worn by some of United’s greatest players including 1960s icon George Best, Bryan Robson, who was dubbed “Captain Marvel” in the ‘80s and ’90s; and Eric Cantona, who inspired the start of the club’s near 20-year dominance of English soccer in ’90s and 2000s.
Beckham and Ronaldo are global icons who have transcended the sport, as well as winning soccer’s biggest prizes.
In other words, it is a big shirt to fill.
Not that United thinks that will be a problem for a player who won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2021 and has established himself as an England regular.
“Mason is an extremely intelligent footballer and has so many fantastic technical qualities that will significantly add to our squad,” United football director John Murtough said. “We have admired his talents for a long time, so we are delighted that he has chosen to take the next steps in his career here at Old Trafford.’
Ronaldo, who became a superstar with the club in the 2000s before leaving for Real Madrid in one of the most expensive and impactful transfers in soccer history, saw his second stint with Manchester United end in acrimonious fashion last November.
The No. 7 shirt has been vacant since Ronaldo’s contract was terminated following an incendiary interview with Piers Morgan during the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in which he criticized United’s ownership and manager Erik ten Hag. Ronaldo later joined Al-Nassr of the Saudi Pro League.
Some on social media criticized the decision to give the 24-year-old Mount the famed No. 7.
In handing Mount the shirt, Ten Hag made it clear how important he believes his signing will be to the club’s attempts to return to the summit of English soccer after 10 years without the league title.
“His style of play and attributes are a perfect fit for this squad, and we all believe that he will only improve further working with Erik ten Hag and his coaching staff,’ Murtough said. “Mason himself is a world-class player but he also has the ability to improve the players around him through his game intelligence and tactical awareness.”
While the No. 7 has been worn by United’s greats, it has also weighed heavily on many players — particularly since Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in 2009.
Antonio Valencia, Angel di Maria, Memphis Depay and Alexis Sanchez all struggled to live up to the expectation that comes with wearing it.
Ten Hag’s interest in Mount reportedly dates back to when the Dutchman was coach of Ajax and watched the then-Chelsea youth prospect star on loan with Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands.
Now he has got his man, with Mount ending his 18-year stay at Chelsea to join a United team that has been much-improved in just one year under Ten Hag.
As well as returning to the Champions League, United also won the English League Cup in Ten Hag’s first season at Old Trafford.
“Everyone can see that the club has made big steps forward under Erik ten Hag,” Mount said. “Having met with the manager and discussed his plans, I couldn’t be more excited for the seasons ahead, and am ready for the hard work expected here. I am hugely ambitious; I know how amazing it feels to win major trophies and what it takes to do it. I will be giving everything to experience that again at Manchester United.”
Mount has signed a five-year deal with the option of another 12 months. United will have to pay a further 5 million pounds ($6.3 million) based on certain targets relating to appearances and success.
Mount joined Chelsea through the club’s youth academy as a 6-year-old and went on to become a fan favorite after rising through the ranks to win the Champions League, European Super Cup and Club World Cup. He was twice named the club’s player of the year and made 195 appearances, scoring 33 goals.
“It’s never easy leaving the club where you grew up, but Manchester United will provide an exciting new challenge for the next phase of my career,” he said. “Having competed against them, I know just how strong a squad it is that I’m joining, and I can’t wait to be part of this group’s drive to win major trophies.”
Mount posted an emotional video message to Chelsea fans on Tuesday to confirm his departure.
“Given the speculation over the last six months this may not come as a surprise to you, but it doesn’t make it any easier to tell that I’ve made the decision to leave Chelsea,” he said on Instagram. “I know some of you won’t be happy with my decision, but it is what’s right for me at this moment in my career.”
While the No. 7 shirt has been filled, ten Hag is still on the lookout for a replacement for Ronaldo at striker.
He wants a top class center forward to lead United’s bid to win the Premier League title and compete in the Champions League.
United has repeatedly been linked with a move for England captain Harry Kane, but the Tottenham striker looks like a difficult deal to do, given the club’s determination to keep hold of its star player.
Mount is the latest player to leave Chelsea as part of a summer clear out by the London club.
N’Golo Kante, Kai Havertz, Mateo Kovacic, Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy are other high profile players to leave, while Hakim Ziyech, Romelu Lukaku, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and United States star Christian Pulisic are expected to follow.
The departures come after Chelsea spent around $630 million last season, but failed to qualify for Europe as it suffered its worst ever Premier League campaign.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
MANCHESTER UNITED trending
Get more from Manchester Utd Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more