Wilfried Zaha has appeared to be a ray of sunshine among what has been largely been a bleak pre-season for Manchester United. The importance of results in the lead up to the league season shouldn’t be overstated, but it is clear in any case that David Moyes’ start for the Premier League giants has been far from easy. Zaha’s early promise could well prompt a temptation to fast track the youngster into the Premier League side, but would such a move be too much too soon for Zaha?
The Ivory Coast born winger joined United as part of a £15m deal from Crystal Palace in January this year. The young Englishman joined on a five and a half year deal having spent the majority of his youth based in South London. However, when Sir Alex spoke of the deal, the onus was very much on potential.
“We like to sign players with potential. We develop players and that’s been proven many times. Hopefully the boy enjoys it here,” Ferguson said.
The Football League Championship PFA player of the season spent the back end of the last year spearheading Palace’s successful assault back towards the Premier League. A player who shows on-field maturity beyond his years and footballing talent to be marvelled at; is he ready for the first team?
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The 20-year-old has so far coped with every challenge that the game has thrown at him. Impressing at both club and international level, he appears a young man to approach everything with a degree of calm and ease. With Manchester United going through something of a transitional phase post Ferguson perhaps this is the kind of player to really forge out Moyes’ new era at the club.
Suggestions are that Moyes will indeed persevere with the youngster in the first team, with early indications that a loan move remains unlikely at the moment. Keen to develop the player with the experience of a Ryan Giggs still in an around the squad, remaining at United for the mean time could be the best bet.
The risk with any young talent is that they are involved too much too soon. While Zaha may be ready mentally for the Premier League, he is not at a stage physically to cope with the rigorous demands week in week out. Yes United could well do with his talents at the moment; Nani appears close to the exit door, Giggs is in the twilight of his career and Valencia’s form has taken a dive of late. However, excessive exposure now could hinder Zaha in the long term and this is a risk United must weigh up carefully.
There has been a long line of players whose careers have suffered burnout as a result of heightened expectations at such young ages. Players such as Raheem Sterling have been rushed in to cover for first-team inadequacies in the short term but forced to suffer longer-term injury and burnout in the process. Michael Owen is another example of a player who was accelerated into the first team fold, and yes he was extremely successful. The long-term costs of his early successes were only really felt during the back-end of a career that never saw his early promise truly materialise. So will United learn from the lessons of the past?
I believe they will. David Moyes is an experienced manager who knows how to get the very best out of his resources. If he wants to create a dynasty at the club it is important that he shows a degree of patience regarding the development of Wilfried Zaha. Similarly Manchester United are a club that has great experience and success in respect of developing young stars and I believe that their approach will be just as restrained and cautious. United are hardly a club without the squad to alleviate pressure from its youngest assets, and I believe that additions will be made to bolster what they already possess.
Smaller clubs with a greater reliance on one man may well be tempted to drive a player like Zaha into the ground and whilst United appear to be desperate for some attacking quality at the moment I don’t believe they will be reckless enough to run the risk of burning out a future star.
So yes Zaha represents one of the most exciting talents that United have captured in recent times. Whilst United face one of the toughest seasons in memory I do not believe it is the time to panic and throw a player like Zaha into the firing line. In the short term this could be a hindrance to the club, but patience in the long run could see the development of a future star for both club and country.
Should Zaha be fast-tracked into the first team?
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