5 Ways Manchester United Could Use Wilfried Zaha Next Season
Wilfried Zaha is set to take the European Under-21 Championships by storm in the coming weeks.
The 20-year-old England international has improved at a terrific rate this past season, leading his former team Crystal Palace to promotion.
He will link up with David Moyes and Manchester United later this summer and begin what promises to be a difficult fight for a place in the Scotsman's first team.
Zaha is a versatile player, capable of operating in a wide variety of roles.
Here are five ways he could be used next term at Old Trafford.
Chances are, Wilfried Zaha will play the majority of his minutes at left wing next season.
He loves running straight at his man and cutting back onto his favoured right foot to shoot, much like United's own Nani.
His left foot isn't the strongest, but he is capable of crossing from his position on this flank.
As things stand, Ashley Young and Ryan Giggs are the Red Devils' premier left-wingers.
However, the former is coming off a poor season, and doubts have been raised as to whether he is good enough to be a regular starter at Old Trafford. Meanwhile, the latter has transitioned to more of a central role in past seasons, a trend that is unlikely to cease.
Zaha would stand the best chance of getting meaningful playing time competing with these two players.
On the other side of midfield, there is Antonio Valencia and Nani (who may be sold this summer).
In theory, David Moyes will love a player like Valencia—one with blistering speed who loves overlapping and creating mismatches with an attacking full-back.
At Crystal Palace, Zaha saw plenty of playing time on the right flank, though he was often switched from one wing to the other when things weren't going his way.
He would pick the ball from deep and use his speed and neat footwork to create space further up the field.
On the right wing, he can flick the ball onto his natural foot, accelerate away from his marker and deliver a ball towards a waiting Robin van Persie in the penalty area.
Championship defenders were so aware of the threat that Zaha posed, they would regularly try to man-mark him out of the game.
This would mostly happen when he was moved to a central position, often just behind striker Glenn Murray.
This ploy worked in the lower division. However, in the Premier League, it is doubtful that Zaha would have the technical skill to be Robin van Persie's No. 2.
David Moyes is likely to play a roaming trequartista like Shinji Kagawa in central attacking midfield next term, rather than Zaha in a more conventional 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1.
If he wanted to be revolutionary, he could always play Zaha at wide forward in the 4-3-3, a formation that paid great dividends for United in the 2007/08 season.
Many in the game believe Zaha will one day develop into a lone striker.
He regularly plays in this position for the England U21 side, and coach Brian Eastwick thinks he "can be really effective in those forward areas" (via The Telegraph).
"He plays wide for Crystal Palace and it is a slightly different role we are asking him to do."
Playing as a striker may be the long-term calling for Zaha, but he is extremely unlikely to see any playing time here next term.
His finishing is steadily improving, but his aerial ability still leaves plenty to be desired.
Besides, the Red Devils already have a wealth of forward options in Van Persie, Wayne Rooney (for now), Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez, all of whom Moyes will favour more.
An Impact Player
David Moyes has always been a manager willing to give youth a chance, but he is not one to get swept up in hype.
Only those deserving of first-team football will play regularly under the Scotsman.
Zaha could spend plenty of next season toiling away on the bench, but if he approaches his Manchester United career with the right attitude, he could be a useful impact player.
He should look to the example set by Javier Hernandez in this respect. Last season, the Mexican striker made more substitute appearances than games started in the Premier League, but still hit double figures in goals.
His natural energy and love of taking on defenders one-on-one could wreak havoc when legs begin to tire late in games.
How do you think David Moyes will use Wilfried Zaha next season?