Football articles

The curious case of Wilfried Zaha

Wilfred-Zaha

What is going on with Wilfried Zaha? One minute he’s playing in the Community Shield in a match that David Moyes – in his first competitive game as Manchester United manager – desperately wanted to win, the next he’s no longer considered good enough for a place on the substitutes’ bench.

When Crystal Palace were promoted, any thoughts about their recently sold star player being loaned back to them for the following season were immediately quashed by United. It seemed then Palace manager Ian Holloway was being cheeky and only half-joking when suggesting that his side could have Zaha back for another campaign. But seeing the situation that the England Under-21 international is in, it would have been the right move for both clubs.

The Eagles are currently in dire need of the best players who steered them to play-off glory last May. It’s bad enough that last season’s top scorer Glenn Murray is out injured let alone knowing that Zaha could be helping them out instead of rotting in the reserves. Playing Premiership football week-in, week-out would serve him a damn sight better than simply training with the Old Trafford outfit. Participating against players of their calibre in training sessions is undoubtedly good for his development, but it doesn’t beat playing against other top sides where there’s much more at stake. There’s rumours he may be sent out on loan in January, but if someone other than Palace nabs him, how will they feel after bringing him through their ranks and being told they couldn’t have him back – particularly in their position?

Now, we probably all knew that he wouldn’t be a regular starter, but did we really think that he would be as excluded as he has been? I certainly expected more than the 78 minutes of action in the League Cup that he has mustered in total so far, especially after being in the first 11 for that curtain raiser against Wigan Athletic. Considering United select Ashley Young, who has been either injured or out of form for the past two years at least, you’d think the man Alex Ferguson spent £15million on would be good enough for a place on the bench. He could add that width and freshness that Moyes’ men need in the second half. It’d be interesting to know Ferguson’s thoughts on the situation. Would he have played him more than the mere 78 minutes Zaha has been on the pitch so far?

No doubt he is gaining valuable experience immersing himself in Manchester United’s environment, and learning what it means to represent them. But he had been doing this on tour with them in the summer, tours of which are training sessions in how to represent the club and gather just how big they are around the globe. That side of it is pretty much covered.

As I said, we probably all knew he wasn’t going to be a regular at first, but to not even play (bar 78 minutes) in the League Cup or be selected amongst the substitutes on match days in the Premiership and Champions League is puzzling. He’s either part of the plans or he’s not. And if he’s only part of future plans – which appears to be the case at the moment – then surely it’s better for him to get some proper first-team experience elsewhere. Having had an impressive pre-season with his new club, how has Zaha fallen so far out of favour with Moyes in a short space of time? And why is his new manager apparently reluctant to let him go out on loan? If Romelu Lakaku can do it for two seasons (maybe three if Everton get their way) then so can Zaha. It hasn’t done the former and countless other players any harm.

This situation needs to be sorted by January, whether he stays at United, or moves elsewhere on-loan or otherwise. The crux of the matter is that he should be getting first-team football wherever it is.

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