Can Wilfried Zaha Be the Next Wayne Rooney at Manchester United?
According to The Mirror, Wayne Rooney could be on the verge of quitting Manchester United for Arsenal. With showdown talks with David Moyes on the horizon, the Gunners have reportedly made a £20 million offer for the England striker.
If £20 million sounds a relatively low figure for a player of Rooney’s calibre, we can assume it’s because this is the first parting shot in what will undoubtedly be a lengthy negotiation.
If Rooney were to depart for London, there would be a certain irony if his place in the Manchester United XI was taken by new arrival Wilfried Zaha. Zaha has just travelled in the opposite direction, moving North from Crystal Palace and, according to The Sun, turning down Arsenal in the process.
Should Rooney leave, Zaha would not be a like-for-like replacement.
At heart, Wayne Rooney is a centre-forward. One of the reasons he has become disgruntled with life at United is that he has been asked to play a variety of roles, filling in on both the left and right wing as well as in central midfield.
For Rooney, versatility has been a curse. Conversely, it is Zaha’s greatest strength.
Zaha spent much of last season on Crystal Palace’s right flank. However, he was also willing to switch to the left when necessary, bamboozling markers in the process.
Inevitably, he was also asked to play centre-forward on occasion. When Palace lost top goalscorer Glenn Murray to injury in the midst of their play-off campaign, Zaha was picked to lead the line away to rivals Brighton, finishing the match with two goals and a hugely enhanced reputation as one of the nation’s most exciting talents.
In the Play-off Final at Wembley, Zaha returned to the wing. However, it was his mazy dribbling that created the penalty which sealed Palace’s promotion.
In the European U-21 Championship, Stuart Pearce selected Zaha as a central striker. England struggled, but Zaha impressed in flashes. Wherever he is asked to play he is irrepressible.
At Manchester United, Zaha’s adaptability could prove invaluable. David Moyes may want to use a 4-2-3-1 system with Robin van Persie operating as a sole front man. Zaha would be able to operate in any of the three attacking midfield berths as well as in a centre-forward role.
Zaha doesn’t yet offer Rooney’s reliability in front of goal. However, he is significantly quicker and his athletic frame suggests he will not suffer Rooney’s sudden physical decline.
His greatest quality is his ability to wriggle away from defenders in small spaces. He has incredibly quick feet, and a wonderful way of shifting his weight to deceive even the tightest of markers.
Zaha will not be the next Wayne Rooney. The players are too different in style, temperament and position.
However, if he fulfills his undoubted potential, he could be just as significant a figure in the history of Manchester United.
Zaha will be determined to make an impact at Old Trafford whether or not Wayne Rooney is there alongside him.
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