Manchester United move came ‘too soon’ says Wilfried Zaha

Former Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha has admitted that his move to the Old Trafford club came too soon in his career. Sir Alex Ferguson made Zaha is final signing of his reign at the club, paying £10 million, which could have risen to £15 million, in January 2013, the player then being loaned back to Crystal Palace for the remainder of the season. Zaha first caught Ferguson’s eye after Palace knocked United out of the League Cup in 2011.

Zaha made the move to Manchester ahead of the 2013/14 season, with David Moyes as the manager. Zaha made just four appearances for the club, two starts, and two substitute appearances. Zaha spent the second half of the season on loan with Cardiff City, spending the next season, with Louis van Gaal as the manager at United, on loan at Palace again. That loan spell was made permanent the following summer (2015) with Palace re-signing Zaha for just £3 million, which could rise to £6 million.

This season, Zaha has shown glimpses of the player Ferguson thought he was signing for the club. He has spent a lot of time on the sidelines through injury, but sometimes that cannot be helped. The 25-year-old has spoken to Sky Sports about his time at United, which he admits he did not take seriously. It makes me wonder if Zaha would be a player to bring back to the club in the summer, especially with United needing a player on the right-wing, not that Zaha has played there a lot, but can. Zaha said:

“Me going to a big club when I was like 19 or 20, I didn’t know what to expect, how to behave, whatever. I was just a youngster who wanted to do tricks, I didn’t even care about end product really. Now I take things a lot more seriously – the gym aspect, recovery after games, my decision-making.

“I’ve learnt a lot in terms of my all-round game. I’m totally different now. I’m definitely more mature and more strong-minded. I had to be mentally strong after what I went through at United. I think in football, most of it is just mental. Once you’ve got that sorted, then you’re good.”

This season, Zaha has played 2,281 minutes in the Premier League, a total of 26 appearances, 25 of them as a starter for Palace. He has scored seven goals, assisting a further two, earning five yellow cards, seemingly seen as a player who dives. Speaking about referees having an agenda against him, Zaha continued by telling Sky Sports:

“There definitely is an agenda against me. I’ve seen so many other players dive but nobody makes a commotion the same way they do with me, trying to get me banned. I don’t get banned because I don’t dive, but why does everyone want me to get banned so much? I feel like, going into games, referees literally just jump on the bandwagon.

“It’s annoying, especially yesterday. Everybody knows how Watford play, they are a team that fouls quite a bit and I’m a player who does tricks, so they are going to end up kicking me. The amount of times I got kicked in the game, it literally looked like I was on the floor most of the time. People are going to think, ‘Yeah, he’s diving’, but you know how Watford play.”

Defensively this season, Zaha has averages 1.2 tackles, and 0.2 interceptions, showing the fact he will not only get involved going forward. In an attacking sense, which is Zaha’s strongest attribute, he has averaged 2.2 shots, 1.7 key passes, 4.1 dribbles, also being fouled 2.7 times, being offside 0.7 times, and being dispossessed 3.8 times per match. Zaha does lose the ball around 3.7 times per match due to bad control. His passing is an admirable 73.3%, which for an attacking player is not too shabby.

Zaha can play in many positions. This season he has mostly played as a centre-forward, also playing as a left forward, a right midfielder and as an attacking midfielder on both the left and the right. This shows that he could be made to play in a Jose Mourinho side, with many of his players being able to deputise elsewhere. His defensive work may need to improve though, especially if United do not strengthen the defence, mainly in the fullback positions. Dribbling is a strength of the player, his ability to keep hold of the ball and aerial duels are weaknesses.

There is nothing to suggest that Zaha has been linked with a return to Old Trafford but after he admitted that he did not take the mover seriously five years ago, it could be a sign that he has grown up and would take that chance if it came calling. Mourinho may not be interested in the player in the slightest, as England were not in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup this summer with Zaha now playing for the Ivory Coast instead, which could have been a mistake for England, especially if you ignore the context as to why he was seemingly ignored.

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