Manchester United will have to do without Mason Mount against Nottingham Forest, with their new midfield signing ruled out until September with another injury setback – the latest in a string of stumbles to Erik ten Hag’s second season in charge.
After an initially positive pre-season and the arrival of Mount alongside Andre Onana and Rasmus Hojlund, United fans had cause to be optimistic for the 2023-24 season. And then reality kicked in on matchday one.
The Red Devils were back. A turgid performance that saw them scrape a win thanks to a moment of magic from Raphael Varane, and possible GBH from Onana going unpunished. Add to that worldwide panic from fans and Mount being placed on fraud watch, and you’ve got United heritage in abundance.
Their 2-0 defeat away to Tottenham proved that United are still lacking something in midfield, however, and confirmed that Mount cannot be the answer to all of the problems that exist there.
Mount getting injured until the end of the upcoming international break gives Ten Hag another headache, with him now having to choose between Christian Eriksen who can’t play anymore than 45 minutes at his best, and Scott McTominay who is an expert in avoiding the ball when inside his own half.
United fans are desperate for a signing – obviously – but what if the answer was already in-house? What if the answer had been staring right back at them throughout pre-season?
No, it’s not Fred the Red and it’s not bringing Tom Cleverley out of retirement either. With Mount and Kobbie Mainoo injured and United struggling to fund a transfer, that answer comes in the form of young Daniel Gore, who quietly staked his claim over the summer and has continued to do so in the time since.
The 18-year-old enamoured himself to United fans over the summer with standout performances against Leeds, Lyon and Athletic Club in pre-season, but has importantly continued to build on a strong start to the season with the under-21s, while the first-team have been stuttering.
Gore put together an impressive 45-minute cameo against Leeds under-21 in the Premier League 2 despite United losing 2-1, looking wise beyond his years as he glided around the field flicking the ball around corners, leaving defenders scrambling and oozing an aura that few possess.
Dan Gore cameo vs Leeds U21 pic.twitter.com/YipSqqSIai
— Comps MU 🎥 (@CompsMU) August 19, 2023
The rave reviews don’t stop there, though. Gore’s impressive ascent continued in the EFL Trophy against Stockport County.
It’s becoming clear very quickly that the kid is in ‘annoyingly good’ territory. That type of player that just runs rings around you no matter how hard you try to read their game. Even when you resort to fouling, they leave you split-legged and red-faced, stumbling over your own feet contemplating if it was ever worth it.
Match reports from a young United’s penalties win at Edgeley Park suggested exactly that, with Gore seemingly dazzling the crowd with his ability oozing out before inevitably being kicked around like an empty can of pop on a schoolyard. Humbling.
He’s got a long way to go, has the lad. And being kicked off the field on a Tuesday night away to a bunch of fully grown blokes playing for Stockport is undoubtedly part of that journey.
But it’s the fact Gore can handle all that and still look supremely comfortable in possession of the ball – in deep areas – which suggests he’s more than ready to step up for Erik ten Hag in a time of need.
By Mitchell Wilks