Orkun Kokcu: Erik ten Hag’s perfect alternative to Mason Mount – Man United News And Transfer News

With Manchester United entering a crucial summer transfer window, the onus is on the club to strengthen a number of key positions to enable Erik ten Hag to challenge for silverware next season. While a centre forward remains the priority, The Red Devils are moving quickly in other areas as well, with a new midfielder also high on the agenda. The chase for Mason Mount has hit a stumbling block, but there is one Eredivisie star on United’s radar who the manager could fall back on to improve his team: Orkun Kokcu.

Here, The Peoples Person assesses the manager’s options with regard to the two midfielders.

Mason Mount: State of Play

Erik ten Hag has identified Mason Mount as his top target for reinforcing United’s midfield, with a formal approach expected for the Chelsea academy graduate in due course. As previously discussed by The Peoples Person, Mount can offer plenty of versatility, as well as a more rounded creative option in place of Christian Eriksen in midfield.

But while personal terms are expected to provide no problem for United, Chelsea’s asking price of £70m plus an additional £10m in performance-related bonuses presents a challenge. Mount is in the last year of his contract, meaning he will be available on a free transfer in twelve months time. He is also known to want a move, and seemingly said his goodbyes after Chelsea’s last match of the season against Newcastle United.

With all of that considered, an £80m total package seems well beyond what could be deemed reasonable for Mason Mount. Todd Boehly may have taken on the habit of grossly overpaying for players in no time at all, but he may find it difficult to sell players at such inflated fees. Man United remain hopeful that a deal can be done at or below the £55m-mark, but such a huge gap in valuation makes an agreement seem some way off.

Erik ten Hag will almost certainly sign a midfielder who can operate in a couple of midfield roles, aid his team’s pressing structure, and offer a threat in the final third. But that does not necessarily have to be Mason Mount.

Orkun Kokcu: Eredivisie wonder

It would be no surprise to see the Dutchman take a leaf out of last summer’s playbook by raiding the Eredivisie for one of its top players, should a compromise for Mount be unattainable. And the midfielder who stands out most is league champion Orkun Kokcu.

At 22, the Feyenoord playmaker is at an age where he can help rejuvenate United’s ageing midfield and has many of the attributes Ten Hag is looking for in his next midfield signing. Under Arne Slot, Kokcu has become the best player plying his trade in the Netherlands, captaining his side to their second Eredivisie title this century. His transformation from a strolling number ten into an indefatigable worker set the example for his teammates, and speaks to the player’s determination to improve his game.

He has most commonly been deployed in a double pivot in Slot’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system, although he still has the nous to play higher up the pitch in more aggressive set ups. With twelve goals in all club competitions this season, there is certainly value to be had in giving him the freedom to get in and around the opposition penalty area. Given that Man United failed to score from a direct free kick all season in the Premier League, Kokcu may well help with that too, having scored a pair himself.

But more impressive than all of that is the Turkey international’s excellence in acting as his team’s ‘connector.’ It is a role that Ten Hag was desperate to fill with Frenkie de Jong last summer, and one which United have had to somewhat ‘make do’ in over the course of the season gone.

Christian Eriksen has performed well alongside Casemiro, with his progressive passes integral to some of The Red Devils’ best performances this season. But lacking in athleticism and often unable to carry the ball forward, he has regularly found it difficult to maintain his performance levels over the course of a full 90 minutes, and has left United somewhat predictable in their attempts to play through the thirds.

Orkun Kokcu is tireless in making space for himself when his team have possession. In all of the Eredivisie last season, only Jurrien Timber of Ajax managed more than his 2,938 touches – a sign of both his availability and his teammates’ faith in him. And when he gets on the ball, the midfielder is both reliable and varied. He topped the Eredivisie for progressive carries among central midfielders last season, and made more progressive passes than any player in the division to boot. Basically, if you want a player who gets on the ball and gets it forward, you want an Orkan Kokcu in your team.

Mount vs Kokcu

In comparison to Mount, the Feyenoord playmaker is less of a pressing machine, it must be said. The Chelsea man is fairly unique in his tactical intelligence out of possession, and marries it with an absurdly good engine. While Kokcu’s rapid improvement in this arena under Arne Slot suggests a work ethic that rises to the challenge, if Ten Hag is looking for a player to help United win the ball high up the pitch first and create opportunities second, Mount would certainly seem the better fit.

Mason Mount is also the more versatile of the two, capable of playing off the front man or on either wing, as well as in the heart of midfield. With Erik ten Hag often moving his front four around in order to press specific opposition players, that could be an invaluable skill to the manager, and one Kokcu is less suited to provide.

But given Manchester United’s struggles to progress the ball without an over-dependence on Christian Eriksen’s passing range, the manager would hardly grumble if he had the Turkey star in his squad. Kokcu is comfortable receiving the ball from his defenders, dribbling through the midfield, and finding an attacker – there is something a bit Frenkie to his game. And in offering a goal threat as an added bonus, it would come as no surprise to see Ten Hag turn his attentions back to his home turf to strengthen his midfield options.

With several other areas in need of heavy investment (particularly up front, with strikers at a premium this summer), the difference in price between the two player cannot be ignored. Chelsea want £80m for Mason Mount, while Orkun Kokcu’s mooted £35m price tag looks positively modest. Kokcu is currently earning about ten times less than Mount as well, meaning that United would also stand to keep a tighter measure of control on their wage bill by opting for the Eredivisie Player of the Season instead.

And while Mount would come with a high likelihood of hitting the ground running, given his Premier League and Champions League experience, Kokcu would probably be a quick settler himself. His experience under Arne Slot makes him a good fit for Ten Hag’s preferred style of play, while he would also be reunited with ex-teammate and close friend Tyrell Malacia.

Erik ten Hag has suggested that he would like to sign domestic players in the past, but pointed to finances when pressed on his apparent preference for Eredivisie signings.

“I would like to sign English players because I think there is only one criteria and that’s quality in combination with the price,” said Ten Hag last summer. “It looks like English players are quite expensive. It’s a fact you cannot deny. In the end, it’s about quality.”

Having scouted Orkun Kokcu this season, Manchester United will know all about his qualities.

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