The Red Devils experienced Sir Alex Ferguson’s last breath of success this season, however, the United fans will be delighted to know that the future looks bright after catching a glimpse of what is to come next season. Crystal Palace’s fifth place finish in the npower Championship gave their star man, Wilfred Zaha, an opportunity to impress the whole nation, and impress is what he did.
Sublime performances against Brighton and most notably Watford, put Premier League defenders on high alert, but the red side of Manchester gleamed with optimism. However, opinions have been cast upon the Ivorian born winger that he is not yet ready for the Premier League, and that his routine jaw-dropping showings in the Championship have been down to the lack in quality and pace of the defenders. Nevertheless, to most open-minded people, this is not the case.
If anything, ‘Wilf’ is made for the Premier League. Standing at 5ft 11in, he is not the tallest of players, but is arguably the optimum height for someone in his position to accelerate away from oncoming defenders. Moreover, despite his slender physique he has the power to hold off defenders, an attribute which separates good wingers from world-class wingers. Running on and off the ball he has a lissome, graceful style and can glide past players with ease. But aside from his top class physical qualities, he boasts technical qualities and an eccentric style of play, which is performed so gracefully and efficiently that it so often leaves his opponents with nothing else to do other than to watch in awe. These skills were on show against Brighton and Watford as he repeatedly spear-headed attacks by fizzing down the wing, cutting inside, whipping a cross or playing an incisive pass into a teammate.
Once again the doubters will argue that many people have prospered at this level and have failed to flourish in the Premier League, and Zaha is just another youngster who will not live up to the hype.
Maybe. But this lad is different.
For someone who has recently emerged out from his teenage years, he portrays himself as someone who is not affected or intimidated by anyone. He exhibited this attitude in front of the whole nation. The away leg against Palace’s rivals, Brighton, saw him manage to turn in an outstanding performance against a crowd who repeatedly jeered him. Where most people would crack under this atmosphere, Zaha kept his wits about him and seemed to inhale the insults and used it as a catalyst for his two goals; a fantastically taken header for the first goal and a magnificent first time turn on a defender followed by a powerful finish for his second goal.
Not being intimidated by the crowds aside, he is also not afraid to try anything and has complete faith in his ability. When his moves go wrong, he miscontrols the ball or gets tackled, he does not get subdued by the mistakes, he gets up and tries to beat the man once again, a mindset which will allow him to have no limits to his potential. There is no wonder in why Manchester United invested so much in this wonderkid. He certainly has the required ability to play in the top flight, but how will Moyes take full advantage of his talent?
In my eyes, there are a few options that Moyes has. Firstly, use him as a winger, either on his preferred right flank or on the left. The right flank will allow him to relentlessly hassle defenders by putting them into an ambiguous state as they ponder whether he will attack the wing and lash the ball into the penalty area or cut inside. However, in order for this to work as desired, Zaha will have to use United’s fantastic setup to full effect and improve his left foot. On the left wing, we could envisage him cutting inside a lot more to use his preferred right foot. No matter what side of the pitch he is on, with United’s wingers having a horrific season and Giggs moving to more of a central role, the flanks are his best chance of establishing a first team place in the squad straight away, .
Another direction that the Scottish manager could take with Zaha is to play him as lone striker or double with another striker. This may not happen very frequently due to the presence of Welbeck, Van Persie, Hernandez and possibly Rooney but he regularly plays in that position for England’s U21’s.
The last option is to utilize him as an ‘impact player’. He certainly has the correct style of play for this role in his debut season with the Premier League champions. However, whether it is the right choice for Zaha and his progression as a footballer is questionable. Zaha radiates confidence, and it is clear that he needs to have this confidence to play at the top of his game, and sitting on the bench for the majority of the game could inhibit his self-assurance which he portrayed so well in the Play-Offs..
Will Manchester United repeat the Crystal Palaces fan’s chants, ‘He’s just too good for you’, next season?
Will he entertain the Premier League just as he entertained the Championship with his captivating, graceful play?
Will he add to that one cap for England and become an integral part of the team?
It’s all about to unravel for this gifted youngster.
This is a guest article submitted by Alex Kidd, writer at Stoppage Time Live