What Next for Wilfried Zaha?

What Next for Wilfried Zaha?

We have heard managers say they were going home to kick the dog after a defeat, in the old days. At Manchester United, this saying has become a reality as the manager David Moyes refused to start the £15m winger Wilfried Zaha once again in an Under-21 fixture against Middlesbrough at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford on Monday evening. We all know, the manager doesn’t fancy him as much as we’d have liked him to, but starting him on the bench in an Under-21 game is an insult to his ability. When the fans thought they had just bought an exciting young potential waiting to take center-stage in Wilfried Zaha, David Moyes seems to have had different plans for the winger. Plans that might kill his career at Manchester United.

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What does Moyes want from his wide-men? We have seen his Everton team, play high-tempo pressing football especially the four in the middle, a tactic which is purely based on pressurizing the opponent a.k.a not allowing the opponents the space thereby winning the ball and attack against the run of play. This might as well explain his preference of a more physically robust/built Valencia to other wingers in Nani and Wilfried Zaha – players who could certainly cross the balls in, with better accuracy than Valencia. Zaha might not provide what he exactly wants from his wide-men but then, the obvious question is, ‘Isn’t football all about scoring goals that win games?’ Why waste a potentially good signing on the bench and later whine about the supposed lack of quality?

Despite an encouraging start to Zaha’s United career – he excelled against Sevilla in Rio Ferdinand’s testimonial, for example – he has made just three first-team appearances. That’s not on. He is a soft target, easy to punish as Moyes works out what the hell he is going to do to save United’s season. By anyone’s standards, it’s not fair to punish a 21-year-old kid.

Before anyone thinks I’m completely biased towards Wilfried Zaha, let me tell you, I’m not. There are a few things which many of the fans may/may not know about the boy, who’s not ‘the’ model professional yet.

When he received his first call into England’s Under 19 squad, Palace had to courier his boots to the training ground. Zaha didn’t realise they wouldn’t be supplied. After signing a five-year contract with Manchester United in January last year, he turned up at Selhurst Park in a new car for practically every home game. Earning £35,000 a week, he could do what he wanted. When the Palace players told him he wouldn’t get away with turning up late for training at Carrington or back-chatting the boss, he told them he would tow the line. At times, Palace despaired of him but they cut him some slack because he was young. But behavior aside, he was the player that made the difference for Crystal Palace in so many of them fixtures in the Championship, which cannot be denied.

Granted, this hardly is how a professional at a club like Manchester United should behave, but when have Manchester United been all about signing model professionals by the way? Moyes though, might have dropped a subtle hint on how he expects his players to feel towards playing for this football club by saying,

‘Maybe players wants to go for the money to other clubs, but if you asked them where they really wanted to be, what club they’d really like to wear the badge of, they want to wear the badge of Manchester United.’

But he cannot expect everyone to realize what they represent. At least, not in the first 6 months. This a club that once stood by Eric Cantona after he was banned for nine months, as a result of the infamous Kung-fu kick at a Crystal Palace supporter on January 25, 1995. And a club that stood by Rio Ferdinand, when he received an eight month ban from the FA when he failed to take a routine drugs test at United’s training ground on September 23, 2003. All those indiscretions are in a different league to the irritations Moyes has of his £15m winger. Player-protection is one of the values that Manchester United and Sir Alex have always stood for. This is the prerogative.

If the rumors are true, Zaha might well join ex-United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Cardiff City on a 6-month loan spell. A loan move to Cardiff, was already in place that was set to be finalized during the early days of January, failed to materialize due to the managerial chaos that surrounded the Welsh club then. With the dust having settled now, Zaha might well get some playing time with the Welsh club which has signed a couple of former Manchester United youth graduates already in Eikrem and Daehli.
Zaha has his own difficulties and he is struggling to overcome them at United. He is certainly better than that and he deserves better from his manager. There are undeniable flaws in Zaha’s personality but Manchester United has to realize it isn’t dealing with a middle-class kid brought up in the Surrey stockbroker belt. With history on their side, there has to be some change in the relationship between the manager and the player himself. A change that helps both parties.