After putting in an effervescent performance at Wembley, threatening with the ball and working diligently without it, goalscorer Mason Mount reflected on the significance of the victory and the prospect of ‘three more cup finals’ in the last fortnight of our domestic campaign.
The 21-year-old covered every blade of grass at the national stadium, leading our pressing with intensity and intelligence, floating into pockets of space and providing a constant source of danger with clever touches and intricate link-up play.
His turf-skimming strike 46 seconds after the half-time restart provided Frank Lampard’s side with a significant cushion, doubling the lead that had been established when Olivier Giroud prodded us in front before the break. It was his seventh goal of this most impressive of breakthrough seasons and means the Blues will once again compete for silverware as the 2019/20 prizes are belatedly handed out.
After the game, Mount reacted to the achievement of netting at Wembley and revealed how his resolve to put more power on his shots in the second half paid immediate dividends.
‘I always want to score and create assists,’ he said after the final whistle. ‘That’s definitely something I look at in my game. It hasn’t happened for a while but I’m always looking to have an affect on the game in different areas. I’m very happy to score today and hopefully that can keep going.
‘It was a massive win for us. We knew how big the game was coming into it and we knew we were coming up against a very strong team that had beaten us three times this season already. I think we came into the game with the extra motivation that we had something to prove and we needed to get one over on them and that definitely played a big part in it.
‘I just tried to get in the right position and hit the target,’ he continued when reflecting on his goal, which squirmed away from David de Gea and into the bottom corner.
‘I had two efforts in the first half where I just tickled the ball and didn’t really hit as it as I would have liked but fortunately this one went in. It was probably a bit lucky that it creeped in but if you don’t shoot, you’re not going to score so I’ll definitely take that one!’
Mount admitted he was surprised that United chose to match our 3-4-3 system, with Bruno Fernandes deployed as a central striker up to the point that a reshuffle was forced upon them by the injury to Eric Bailly. Their shift to a back four opened up spaces and handed the Blues the initiative, aided by Giroud’s timely opener deep in first-half stoppage time.
‘We were expecting them to start with four at the back because that’s what they’ve been playing recently so it was a quite a surprise that they changed to five,’ continued Mount. ‘I think they’ve played it against us twice and that’s obviously why they changed because they beat us in the league and the Carabao Cup.
‘We knew we had to try to change the way we play a little bit. It was unfortunate that they had an injury and changed back to a four because that helped us in the way we were trying to play.
‘We could run in behind because there was a bit more space there and it opened the game up a little bit for us where it helped our five at the back push up and keep the ball a bit more.’
In truth, Mount and his team-mates had dominated the first half even when United were operating with a three-man defence, with their speedy start helping to set the tone and pin the Red Devils back.
‘It’s important to start fast against a team like United because they have very dangerous players,’ Mount explained. ‘You need to start sharp, get on the front foot and try to press high.
‘We did that and made it difficult for them. We started the first half very well and that obviously helped us to eventually get the goal and then going into the second half, we started strong again.’
The final three games of our domestic campaign will determine just how successful Lampard’s first campaign in charge will be viewed. There is the possibility of ending the season with Champions League qualification as well as a trophy, prospects that were deemed rather improbable by most this time last year, but Mount is wary that encounters with Liverpool, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal represent the very toughest of run-ins.
‘The gaffer has said we have two massive finals now before we play here again and we need to go into the games with that mindset, to try and win both games to secure the top four,’ he added. ‘That’s definitely our goal and then we’re back here hoping to win a trophy.
‘We need to take the two league games first, they’re massive games for us. We want to get in that third position and stay there. After that, hopefully we can win some trophies because that’s what we all want to do and that will definitely top the season off for all of us.’