Wilfried Zaha has been loaned out by a third different manager at Manchester United – will he ever make it at Old Trafford?
Zaha became a key member of the Crystal Palace team in 2009/10 and was showing real potential. He won The Eagles’ Young Player of the Year in his first senior season and in the following season he picked up the award again, along with the Football League Young Player of the Year – an impressive start.
Wilfried was starting to attract attention from various Premier League clubs and as the January transfer window opened during the 2012/13 season Sir Alex Ferguson purchased the English winger for Manchester United.
A dream move to one of the biggest football teams with arguably the best manager of all time in charge – but not for long.
Manchester United instantly loaned Zaha back to Crystal Palace for the remainder of the season and he played a key part in winning Crystal Palace promotion into the Premier League via the playoffs. He came through the ranks with The Eagles’ but wasn’t going to get a chance to represent them in the Premier League.
He was still off to play for Manchester United but David Moyes was now in charge. He made four appearances under Moyes for United and he was loaned out to Cardiff City to gain some more first team football. This is where Zaha’s career move fell down immediately, he signed for a team with a certain manager who was gone by the time he arrived – not ideal.
He had a half decent time with Cardiff City who were relegated and Wilfried again returned to Manchester United with another different manager in charge. Louis van Gaal arrived and signed more world class attacking midfielders and strikers than you can shake a stick at. He also deemed Zaha surplus to requirements and again he was loaned out but this time it was back to Crystal Palace. Perhaps two years of his career wasted?
Wilfried is still only 21-years-old so his career is still very much in the early stages. Just after the arrival of van Gaal, he had made it known that he was willing to fight for a place with The Red Devils but I don’t think he foresaw the incoming transfers. In terms of attacking midfielders at United, Wilfried is behind Young, Valencia, Mata, di Maria, Herrara, and Januzaj. And since Van Gaal’s system generally doesn’t include wingers, he was unlikely to want more than 2 in his squad.
His return to Crystal Palace has sparked him to life again and he scored on his return. He’s back where he wants to be and should he impress during this loan spell, a permanent move away from Old Trafford may be in the pipeline come the end of the season, or even in January. There is no doubting that the England international (OK, he’s only played seven minutes – but still) has an immense amount of talent and at 21 he is picking up a lot of experience.
He’s playing under Neil Warnock now and is in desperate need of game time if there was any chance of him becoming a part of van Gaal’s first team plans.
I would suggest that Van Gaal is unlikely to change his style of wing-backs and/or lack of wingers, so all the while that he boss at Manchester United, there is no place for Zaha. The 21-year-old was left in the dark with the departure of Sir Alex as under his guidance he may have flourished. He’s now been rejected by two managers and hasn’t made it into two of the worst United sides in recent history, although the attacking options are as good as they have ever been.
A shame for Zaha but his move to Manchester United was disastrous and while he may return back to Palace on a permanent basis, he probably wishes that he never left.