David Moyes insists Wilfried Zaha is still in Manchester United’s plans even though a January loan move is on the cards
Wilfried Zaha was Sir Alex FergusonÔÇÖs final signing as Manchester United manager, a ┬ú15 million parting gift to his successor David Moyes. Capped by England four days after his 20th birthday, and bought by Ferguson on the trusted advice of his son Darren, Zaha appeared to present a welcome alternative at Old Trafford to Nani or Ashley Young.
Yet Moyes has yet to grant Zaha a single minute of competitive football for United. The manager indicated on Monday that the winger might finally be given his club debut in Tuesday eveningÔÇÖs Capital One Cup tie against Norwich City, although he offered no guarantees.
It is difficult to remember any English club buying a player for a similar fee and then failing to give them exposure to any first-team action for such an extended period. Zaha, a maverick winger who was born in the Ivory Coast and raised in south London, effectively joined United in the summer because although Ferguson arranged the deal to buy him in January, he was loaned back to his former club Crystal Palace for the remainder of last season.
Having inspired Palace to promotion to the Premier League, he took part in UnitedÔÇÖs tour of the Far East, impressing to the extent that he played for England against Scotland in August. Three days before that, he had started UnitedÔÇÖs final pre-season game of the summer, the Community Shield against Wigan, a non-competitive fixture. Since then: nothing.
Zaha has acknowledged he has plenty to learn and has always stressed his ambition in his first season at United was to earn time on the field, aware that appearances could be limited. But his absence from MoyesÔÇÖs selection has led him to seek a loan move to another Premier League club in January, as revealed by The Telegraph earlier this month.
Moyes confirmed on Monday that United were considering granting ZahaÔÇÖs request, but insisted the player had not ÔÇ£done anything wrongÔÇØ and was in his thoughts.
ÔÇ£I just donÔÇÖt think we have had the right opportunity to get him on as much as would have liked,ÔÇØ Moyes said. ÔÇ£We donÔÇÖt want to put him in too quickly. We want to make it the right time.
ÔÇ£IÔÇÖve said I would look at it in January as I wanted to have him here for six months to see how we work. I told him we would try to get him minutes but the competition in the wide areas we have with Nani, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Adnan Januzaj and even Shinji Kagawa playing off the side means we are as strong there as anywhere.
ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs not that Wilf has done anything wrong, itÔÇÖs just that we have big competition and we have to try to make sure he gets some playing time. Unfortunately, we havenÔÇÖt done that with Wilf and, if itÔÇÖs still the case in January, we would look at it [sending him on loan]. But he is very much in my plans and in my thoughts all the time.ÔÇØ
The bafflement of certain observers at MoyesÔÇÖs failure to deploy Zaha has led to some unfounded conspiracy theories being aired on the internet. What will be of far greater to concern to Zaha is that something far simpler might be the issue ÔÇô that whatever talent persuaded Ferguson that Zaha had special potential is not apparent to Moyes yet.
It was certainly not lost on George Burley, who as Palace manager gave the teenage Zaha his full debut, and who sees similarities with no less than Diego Maradona.
Burley said: ÔÇ£HeÔÇÖs got a fantastic talent. HeÔÇÖs got his own charisma. HeÔÇÖs got this talent to take players on and this talent that when people tackle him, he bounces off them. The only other player IÔÇÖve seen that in was Maradona. ÔÇØ
Burley said a loan spell could yet lead Zaha to success at Old Trafford. ÔÇ£I felt Gareth Bale needed another year before he went to Tottenham but he went and the first six months, he struggled. And Gareth was more advanced than Wilfried at that period. I think it would do him the world of good for him to go on loan for six months or a year and heÔÇÖll come back with more confidence, a better player. Look at Andros Townsend, who went to Queens Park Rangers last year and was terrific.ÔÇØ