Manchester United

Wilfried Zaha: What Makes Manchester United and Arsenal so Keen on Palace Star

Wilfried Zaha gave Manchester United defender Fabio a torrid time in the League Cup last season.
Wilfried Zaha gave Manchester United defender Fabio a torrid time in the League Cup last season.Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Ian RodgersWorld Football Staff WriterJanuary 15, 2013

Nobody could accuse Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha of being shy in discussing his talents, particularly after this interview with the Daily Mail in November 2012.

The 20-year-old was on the verge of making his England debut after a late call-up to Roy Hodgson's squad for the friendly defeat by Sweden when he declared that he considered only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as being better than him.

"I'd never look at someone and think he's better than me, unless it's Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. When I get on the pitch it's my time."

That is some declaration from the Ivory Coast-born player, but anyone who can get BBC News presenter and Palace supporter Susannah Reid to sing about him live on television deserves some kudos.

After a scintillating first half to this season in which has has scored five times in 25 appearances for the Selhurst Park club, Zaha is now at the forefront of several major clubs' minds.

Manchester United are set to make their move for Zaha, according to the Daily Mail, while Arsenal have also been credited with a strong interest in a report by The Independent.

Zaha himself offered a cryptic clue about his next destination, as the Mirror picked up on his Twitter account.

Zaha has come a long way since making his debut for Palace in 2010. His ability to beat a man in a one-to-one situation has few comparisons in the Premier League.

United full-back Fabio experienced Zaha's turn of pace for himself in the League Cup last season, when the winger was part of the Palace team that sent Sir Alex Ferguson's side tumbling out of the tournament in November 2011.

Zaha's quick feet and shielding of the ball prevent defenders from getting close while also affording the winger the opportunity to surprise his opponent.

Zaha has been tutored in the ways of dealing with tough-tackling, no-nonsense centre-halves by Palace teammate Paddy McCarthy.

Consequently, the winger lacks the fear of knowing that something unpleasant awaits the precocious player against the brick-wall defender.

The physical side of the game, though, does reflect Zaha's weakness. His tackling back for the ball remains a part of his game that requires work while marking opposition players is also a role that needs attention.

As our colleague, Jessica Isner, highlighted last week, Zaha has lost form in recent weeks, as speculation over his future intensified. The spotlight at Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium burns even brighter.

But with managers as wise and canny as Ferguson and Hodgson to oversee his development for club and country, Zaha can confidently predict a bright future for himself.

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