Wilfried Zaha could be in real danger of falling between the cracks at Old Trafford this summer and into next season. The youngster was signed under Alex Ferguson from Crystal Palace, and now with a new manager at the helm at Manchester United, the future could be unclear for the winger.
It’s not his fault, of course. The whirlwind of stories emanating from Old Trafford have made him an afterthought, from Ferguson stepping down to Moyes coming in, to a whole host of star players linked with arrivals, some of whom could block Zaha’s path into the first team.
But it was always a stretch to assume Zaha was being brought in to be a regular in the starting XI this season. He may be Championship good, but he’s never kicked a Premier League ball in his career. The loan back to Palace in January is exactly what was needed due to United’s focus on the league title and the fact that there wasn’t a pressing need for an injection of bodies on the flanks.
The fortune for Zaha in United selecting Moyes to succeed Ferguson is that the former Everton manager does have a very good track record of developing youngsters. It’s unlikely to be in Moyes’ nature to completely abandon his values and proven abilities from his days at Everton, where he needed to be astute in the market and in making the most of the club’s youth academy. Even with riches beyond anything Everton have seen, the new United manager may still look to Zaha as a valuable figure next season, not least because there is talent that can be shaped into a bright and successful Premier League player.
On the whole, though, it was Manchester United’s investment to make the most of one of England’s best young players, not just Alex Ferguson’s. Zaha will take to Premier League pitches in the same way Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did two years ago and Victor Moses before him: with youthful exuberance and a total disregard for fear. As good as United are and for all their ability to attract the very best players in world football, any team will benefit from that hunger in young players to do well, bringing with them a level of unpredictability that often can’t be matched.
The fact that Zaha has experience with the England national team, at both senior at youth levels, is another bonus. United are not going to limit themselves to just 50 or 75 per cent of the trophies on offer next season, and Zaha’s inclusion in the squad will be of use.
For that, it won’t be of great benefit for either party to loan Zaha out this season, even if it is to another Premier League club. Make the youngster feel immediately welcome and valued by the new coaching staff. Allow him to acclimatise early to the surroundings of a titan of European football, and one that dwarfs his origin in the game. If this coming season is the settling in period where we only see flashes of brilliance from the player, then so be it. The end product was always likely to come in a few years rather than instantly.
What should United do with Zaha next season?
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