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Let’s hope Wilfried Zaha gets a better crack at the Premier League big time than at Man United

There was always an inevitability that the Premier League‘s elite would once more come knocking for Wilfried Zaha.

After all, there was a sizeable chunk of time a couple of years back when Crystal Palace quite literally could not win a game without their talismanic winger.

Zaha’s consistently impressive performances for the south London club, over the best part of five seasons now, have once again moved him on to the radar of the top six this summer.

Wilfried Zaha is once again attracting interest from leading Premier League clubs this summer

Wilfried Zaha is once again attracting interest from leading Premier League clubs this summer

The winger was just 21 when he left Crystal Palace for Manchester United back in 2013

The winger was just 21 when he left Crystal Palace for Manchester United back in 2013

Zaha was convinced to sign by Sir Alex Ferguson but the legendary boss then retired and his successor David Moyes didn't believe the winger was good enough

Zaha was convinced to sign by Sir Alex Ferguson but the legendary boss then retired and his successor David Moyes didn’t believe the winger was good enough

But regardless of whether Zaha ends up joining Arsenal or Chelsea – or even Everton – let’s hope he is treated a little better than during his ill-fated spell with Manchester United.

It was in January 2013 that Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton travelled down to London to help convince a 20-year-old who had been ripping up the Championship that he was destined for greatness at Old Trafford.

Sitting there, it wouldn’t have even flickered across the youngster’s mind that Ferguson was about to bring the curtain down on one of management’s most illustrious careers. Not that he was likely to broach such a subject anyway.

But Zaha was Ferguson’s last signing – that timeless trivia question – and a £10million purchase made very much with an eye on the future, loaned back right away to help Palace secure promotion to the Premier League.

Perhaps if Fergie had remained in charge, a raw talent like Zaha might have enjoyed the kind of under-the-wing nurturing that so benefited Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham and others.

Zaha warmed the United bench plenty during the first half of the 2013-14 campaign

Zaha warmed the United bench plenty during the first half of the 2013-14 campaign

It was clear that Moyes had no place for the winger in his first team plans at Old Trafford

It was clear that Moyes had no place for the winger in his first team plans at Old Trafford

Malicious false rumours spread that Zaha had slept with Moyes's daughter, Lauren

Malicious false rumours spread that Zaha had slept with Moyes’s daughter, Lauren 

ZAHA AT UNITED 

Signed for an initial £10m rising to £15m in January 2013.

Matches played: 4

Minutes played: 166

Matches played for reserves: 3

Minutes played for reserves: 215

Instead, he arrived at Old Trafford at a time of flux and great uncertainty. David Moyes was the ‘Chosen One’ but soon buckled under the strain of leading England’s biggest club in the terrifying post-Fergie age.

It soon became apparent that Zaha had no place in Moyes’s first team plans and, the player later claimed, that effectively left him ostracised on a daily basis on the training ground.

‘I was disappointed [when Sir Alex retired],’ Zaha revealed to Sportsmail in 2015. ‘I was looking forward to working with him but I’m not going to beg him to come back on my account! I just had to get on with it.

‘As soon as Moyes came he said I wasn’t ready for the Premier League.’

Did the Scot ever explain how he’d reached such a conclusion? ‘No. I didn’t really understand it. I never got a response really.’

With Moyes desperate to impress and very much working on a results basis, there appeared to be little time to coach Zaha and apply the polish to his game.

Moyes issues instructions to United's £15m signing during a pre-season game in Bangkok

Moyes issues instructions to United’s £15m signing during a pre-season game in Bangkok

There also seems to have been a lack of pastoral care on United’s part to help someone so young settle in new surroundings.

As a wealthy young man living on his own in Manchester, Zaha seemed to become a magnet for malicious rumours.

It was claimed in some circles that he had a bad attitude in training and, in a bizarre false rumour, that he had slept with Moyes’s daughter, Lauren. In fact, Zaha had never met her.

It all amounted to a pretty torrid time.

‘There were rumours that the reason I wasn’t playing for United was because I slept with David Moyes’s daughter, and no one [at the club] attempted to clear that up,’ Zaha said in a 2018 interview.

‘So I was fighting my demons by myself, these rumours that I knew weren’t true. I was dealing with this at 19; living in Manchester by myself, nowhere near anyone else, because the club had a hold over where I lived.

‘They hadn’t given me a car, like every other player. Nothing. I’m living in this hell by myself, away from my family.

Moyes was soon under pressure at United and didn't devote time to nurturing Zaha's talent

Moyes was soon under pressure at United and didn’t devote time to nurturing Zaha’s talent

The young winger ended up playing just 166 minutes of first-team football for United

The young winger ended up playing just 166 minutes of first-team football for United

‘When I was at United I had [plenty of money], but I was still so down and depressed.’

Down, depressed and, more often than not, warming the United bench. 

Zaha impressed during pre-season but failed to perform in the Community Shield win over FA Cup winners Wigan – something he ascribed to Wembley nerves – and failed to win a place.

After that, he didn’t get on the field again until a League Cup tie against Norwich at the end of October.

In all, Zaha played just 166 minutes for United’s first team. The fact he played 215 minutes for the reserves tells you how he was very much a spare part.

On deadline day in January, with the Moyes reign crashing and burning, Zaha was ushered out on loan to Cardiff, managed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

In the summer of 2014, Zaha returned to Palace, first on loan and then permanently for £3m as United cut their losses on a player they never had a plan for.

He later reflected: ‘Going to Manchester United you’re expected to be the final product. That’s what it felt like.

Zaha was loaned out to Cardiff City midway through the 2013-14 campaign for game time

Zaha was loaned out to Cardiff City midway through the 2013-14 campaign for game time

Zaha has since prospered at Crystal Palace and will attract big money offers this summer

Zaha has since prospered at Crystal Palace and will attract big money offers this summer

‘Maybe it would’ve been different with Ferguson, but I felt you had to be pinpoint on everything.

‘I had to go to training knowing that I wasn’t going to be playing. Then I would see United fans making jokes. I went through that every single day. I lived up there by myself with not really anybody to speak to.’

Luckily, Zaha’s time at Old Trafford didn’t derail a career that has since gone from strength to strength.

Now aged 26, with over 150 Premier League appearances under his belt, Zaha looks far more equipped for a crack at one of the division’s larger clubs than he ever was at United.

 

Original article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-7289001/Lets-hope-Wilfried-Zaha-gets-better-crack-Premier-League-big-time-Man-United.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490

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