Manchester United are a club with a rich history of great wingers, and it has been a position that has been vital to their success over the years. The most recent great was obviously Cristiano Ronaldo, but those that have been brought in since his departure have failed to find the desired consistency.
The latest to catch the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson is Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha. The recently capped England international has lit up the Championship so far this season at Selhurst Park and was the subject of interest from a host of Premier League sides, but it was Ferguson who took the plunge to complete a deal. However United fans will be cautious in their expectations from yet another young, extravagant winger with the potential to be ‘great’.
Ashley Young was excellent for Aston Villa in the Premier League, and consistently too before moving to Manchester. While showing patches of his quality at Old Trafford, he has struggled to reproduce this kind of form, and the same can be said for Luis Nani. To be fair to the Portugal international though, he did enjoy a stand out season in 2010-2011 as he helped the Red Devils to the title, scoring nine goals and providing 18 assists in the league which saw him named the club’s player of the season. His form has however hit a downward spiral since then and fans will hope that Zaha will be one who can buck this trend of inconsistency.
Luis Antonio Valencia is another who had worked his way into becoming a mainstay on the right of United’s midfield since his £16million move from Wigan which many people questioned at the time, but even he has struggled to perform to the best of his ability this season and will feel threatened by the new arrival in the summer.
So what do we know about Fergusons latest recruit? He is a product of the Youth system at Crystal Palace and was handed his debut in the 2009-10 season, since which he has continued his swift progression through the ranks and become a key figure at the South London club.
He is a 5’11, pacey forward with good close control and a trick or two up his sleeve. He seems to have the attributes of a great winger if he is able to hone these skills and make the best of his ability but you can also see his potential to play in a more central position in the future. The test for him starts now though as the attention on him has naturally increased since his deal with the current Premier League leaders was confirmed.
He is a player whose valuation and status in the game has risen significantly in a pretty short period of time. It was only the summer where Wigan were reportedly reluctant to pay £3.5million to secure his services, and after being a relatively unknown quantity his name has been elevated into the spotlight. One thing that’s for certain is that the 20-year-old doesn’t lack any ambition or confidence. The Guardian quoted him as saying in an interview at the back end of last year:
“I want to come up against defenders who will properly test me.”
“I’d never look at someone and think he’s better than me, unless it’s Ronaldo or Messi. When I get on the pitch it’s my time.
“I’ve not really come up against a defender yet where I’ve thought: “What can I really do to go past him?”
This is a man who believes in his ability and doesn’t seem like he will be phased by the challenge that awaits him at United. People may call it over confidence and arrogance, but as we are aware, many of the best in their profession have a bit of this about them. He will be aware that in Ferguson he has someone renowned for bringing the best out of young talent and a man who has a lot of affinity for wingers and views them as a vital part of his teams.
Consistency in quality is the key as that is what separates the good players from the greats. If he is focussed and practices what he preaches than I am sure he can fulfil the belief that the United chief has in him.
He will have to get used to being compared to fan favourites that have graced the field before him at the theatre of dreams though, as well the relatively unforgiving environment which the Premier League provides.