Wilfried Zaha: Why Manchester United Fans Should Be Excited About Him

Max TowleAnalyst IMay 22, 2013

Many Manchester United fans were left scratching their heads when it was announced in January that Wilfried Zaha had been signed for upwards of £10 million.

Loaned back immediately to promotion-chasing Crystal Palace, there hasn't even been an opportunity to see the man in action at Old Trafford.

There were questions asked about the transfer, the main one being why had so much money been spent on someone who had never played a game of Premier League football before in his career?

Zaha remains a bit of an unknown quantity to many. To the fan who doesn't follow Championship action, that is.

He is a highly rated prospect—but possessing this tag doesn't automatically guarantee success.

This article will analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the Ivory Coast-born, England international and seek to rest minds at ease.

This boy is some player.


A Gradual Rise to Prominence

Wilfried Zaha moved to London from the Ivory Coast when he was four years old.

He has only ever been on the books of Crystal Palace. He made his debut for the first team in 2010 aged only 17.

The following season, he was a regular at Selhurst Park under manager Paul Hart and his replacement George Burley.

Zaha played predominantly on the wing, showing his precocious talent in bursts.

He was often criticized by fans of Palace who felt he was a bit of a show pony in his early days, trying too often to beat his man and go for the spectacular.

He was far less raw in his second full season, becoming a more all-round attacking threat.

In November last year, Zaha made his international debut, playing for Roy Hodgson's England side in a friendly against Sweden.

Though he has not featured for the team since, Zaha is undoubtedly a part of Hodgson's long-term thinking.

As well as helping Palace to the Championship promotion playoffs, he scored two crucial goals in the semi-final second leg against Brighton. He will now play one last game for the Eagles at Wembley, in the playoff final.


What Kind of Player is He?

As previously mentioned, Wilfried Zaha is by nature a flying winger.

He has been deployed on either flank by manager Ian Holloway, and periodically as a lone striker.

He may not look the bulkiest 5'11", but Zaha is a natural athlete. He is incredibly quick and has excellent upper-body strength.

Like a young Cristiano Ronaldo, he is never afraid to take on an opposing defender and show off a new trick or two at the same time.

At the moment, he is more Nani than Ronaldo—consistency will be the key if he is to succeed at Old Trafford.

But the point is that he is capable of beating his man one-on-one, something Ashley Young, the Red Devils' current first-choice on the left wing, isn't.

If there are slightly worrying traits about Zaha, it is that he sometimes has a tendency to disappear in games. When this happens, Holloway switches him all over the park to get him more of the ball, but this doesn't always work.

Make no mistake, Zaha always wants the ball. He plays the way the game should be—fun.

He has great stamina and can run and run up and down the flanks. His defensive ethic isn't great, but that can be taught by the Carrington training staff.

His ball control and crossing abilities still need to be worked on, but again, these are flaws that can be ironed out.


How Would He Fit at United?

It is not yet known how David Moyes will tactically deploy his United team next term.

But if his track record is anything to go by, the side will take the form of a 4-2-3-1, with more traditional wingers.

Which means that Wilfried Zaha will spend most of his time playing on the left wing, unless there is a drastic change in personnel over the summer, which is unlikely.

He is not yet a natural enough goalscorer to play as the lone striker. His brace against Brighton last week was impressive, but he had only scored one goal before that in the Championship since the new year.

Over time, it is certainly possible that he could play as a wide forward or striker, but we're talking about what immediate impact he can make here.

The Red Devils' wingers have been terrible this season—Nani, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia—no exception.

If this worrying trend continues, Zaha should get his fair share of game time under Moyes.

The fact that, unlike Young and Valencia, he can play on both wings also aids his cause for regular football.

It would be unfair to label him "one for the future." He will play next term, and I am confident he will make an impact. He is definitely someone to get excited about.

It just depends on how Moyes manages a player that was signed before him.


What kind of impact do you think Zaha will have next season and beyond?

Bleacher Report's Premier League coverage has been nominated in the 2012-13 EPLTalk awards. Cast your vote here.


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