Mason Mount has got two objectives he must fulfil at Manchester United – George Smith

Expected to produce an evening&aposs worth of goals, glitz and glamour, England, instead, limped past Malta, recording a 2-0 win in their penultimate 2024 European Championship qualifier. Victory made it six wins from seven qualifiers for Gareth Southgate&aposs side, but it was hardly a performance that inspired confidence ahead of next summer&aposs finals in Germany.

After reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, the final of Euro 2020 and then the last eight of last year&aposs World Cup, there is a level of expectancy on England&aposs shoulders ahead of next year&aposs tournament. Many insist it should be Southgate&aposs last chance to deliver a trophy.

But unlike in 2021 and 2022, Manchester United midfielder Mount, who joined the club from Chelsea in the summer, is facing the prospect of missing out on a squad that will try and create lasting memories for millions next summer. Southgate has named three England squads since Mount joined United in July and he is yet to be included in one of them, though he was sidelined through injury in September.

Mount started five of England&aposs seven matches at the last European Championship, which was delayed by 12 months because of the pandemic, and he featured in four of the Three Lions&apos five matches in Qatar last year, starting twice. His inclusion often generated mixed opinions, though everyone has an opinion when it comes to the England squad, of course.

But whatever your opinion of Mount and his suitability to the way Southgate wants to deploy his team, he is simply not going to roll over and surrender his chances of boarding the plane to Germany next June. He, like every other Englishman in with a realistic chance of making the squad, will want to extend his 2023/24 campaign.

Though Southgate has his favourites, and has picked players regardless of their form at club level in recent months, England are well-stocked in midfield. Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice are automatic starters, leaving just one midfield berth up for grabs. Southgate, in his defence, is spoilt for choice when it comes to filling that last spot in his preferred 4-3-3 formation.

But if he intends for Rice to sit deep, freeing up Bellingham to strut his stuff, he may, just as Erik ten Hag does at United, choose to employ a deep-lying playmaker in a free-roaming No.8 berth. If that is his plan, Mount needs to put himself in the shop window, though the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, James Maddison and Phil Foden are, at this juncture, more appealing options to complete a three-man midfield, depending on Southgate&aposs tactical vision.

Regardless of Southgate&aposs thinking, Mount&aposs hopes of forcing his way back into the England system, and indeed Ten Hag&aposs first-choice XI, could rest on the Reds&apos upcoming run of matches. Sunday&aposs trip to Goodison Park to face Everton marks the beginning of a monster period, featuring 10 fixtures in the space of just 35 days.

Ten Hag, to manage that load, is going to need to rely on as many members of his squad as possible. With Christian Eriksen and Casemiro already missing from the engine room, he can ill afford any further setbacks.

Eriksen&aposs knee injury, which is expected to keep him out for about a month, opens a window of opportunity for Mount to reclaim his place. He was drafted in from Chelsea, essentially, as an upgrade on the aforementioned Dane, tasked with operating between both boxes and being United&aposs new conductor in a deep-lying midfield position.

Though the injury he suffered in late August disrupted his early-season hopes of settling into life at Old Trafford, he has struggled to wrestle his place back in recent weeks, often finding himself on the bench. He has not started a Premier League game since the 2-1 triumph over Brentford on October 7.

After being called upon to replace Eriksen against Luton Town just over a week ago, however, indications suggest he might be about to get his latest chance. If that is to be the case, he needs to make sure he grasps it with both hands.