He’s a £15 million asset who has those attributes in abundance.
It’s odd, then, that Zaha seems destined to leave Old Trafford on a loan deal before the end of January. That will be especially true if David Moyes is unable to bring in reinforcements during this transfer window. Moyes, of course, had no hand in Zaha’s signing, which might explain why the youngster has rarely been involved this season.
Regardless, let’s take a look at why United’s use, or misuse, of Zaha makes no sense.
It Should Have Been Easy for Moyes to Involve Zaha
It’s not even as if Zaha has had to contend with a fully fit, full-strength squad. United have been ravaged by injuries—with Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Nani all out for extended periods—which should have aided Zaha’s inclusion, not hampered it.
If Zaha can’t get into the team now, what will happen when key players return to fitness? More than that, what will happen when Moyes makes new signings?
Zaha on the bench and not used, again. Baffling. #mufc— Tom McDermott (@FootballMcD) January 7, 2014
Strangely, Moyes was handed an opportunity to blood Zaha, and he didn’t take advantage. That he has regularly involved Adnan Januzaj this season suggests that Moyes just doesn’t favour Zaha. It’s impossible to speculate why that might be the case because, quite rightly, we aren’t privy to what goes on at Carrington.
But we must assume that Moyes has not been convinced by him.
That could relate to his technical ability or his attitude. It could even be down to private matters, which Zaha has previously quashed. Either way, Moyes clearly hasn’t been impressed enough by Zaha.
Ultimately, there were plenty of chances to give Zaha a taste of the action in the early going this season, but they weren’t taken. That could be to Zaha’s detriment in the future; he should have been allowed to flourish this season.
Zaha Was Signed as an Investment
Let’s not forget that Zaha’s signing was a forward-looking investment. So to alienate that investment for over six months is puzzling.
Given that he has been held back from the start of the season, it would have made more sense to let him stay at Crystal Palace for another year. Yes, he will have had the exposure of training alongside world-class players, but he would have started nearly every single one of Palace’s games this season.
And because of that, any loan deal now will scream of mismanagement.
Given Moyes' tactical dependency on wingers, to let Zaha leave when Nani + Young have had injury problems all year is a baffling concept.— Sam MUFC (@PeoplesPerson_) January 14, 2014
It’s not as if Zaha has done anything wrong on the pitch to justify being loaned out, since he hasn’t played. Zaha wasn’t purchased as a player who would come in and nail down a regular place in the starting XI; he was signed as a long-term prospect.
But it’s important to remember that Zaha was not Moyes’ investment.
That is the crux of this issue because Zaha has had to try and establish a name for himself under a manager who is trying to establish his own. Ensuring that Zaha became settled and involved was not one of Moyes’ primary concerns upon taking over.
Zaha Has What United Have Been Missing This Season
Far too often under Moyes, United have looked lethargic and predictable in attack. Zaha is anything but lethargic and predictable.
Rather, he is energetic, pacey and competent on the ball. Check out the video clip above to get a sense of what Zaha can offer. Impressive, right?
Zaha possesses talent that warrants more than just four appearances in the red of United over the space of six months. At any rate, a 30-minute cameo here and there would have allowed him to dazzle.
No tiring full-back would feel comfortable facing a speedster such as Zaha.
Zaha had a great pre-season and I'd of thought like Adnan he'd of played more, sheer pace to burn, excites people defenders hate pace— David May (@DavidMay04) January 7, 2014
And that’s what it comes down to, really. Think back to the home defeat to Newcastle, where a comeback was never on the cards—there was no cavalry charge. Alternatively, think back to the Capital One Cup semi-final first-leg defeat to Sunderland—there was no invention about United’s play.
In both instances, and on many more occasions, Zaha could have made the difference. “Could” being the operative word.
It’s not like Moyes has refused to play a Ballon d’Or nominee or refrained from playing an established world-beater. Zaha is raw and, to a certain extent, unproven.
That is both a strength and weakness.
And while his inclusion in certain games would be a gamble, there’s only one way to find out what Zaha can do. One would worry that Moyes’ conservatism is what’s holding Zaha back.
What Does the Future Hold for Zaha at United?
A loan move looks increasingly likely for Zaha. Jamie Jackson of The Guardian is reporting that Moyes has delayed Zaha's potential loan move to Cardiff until he is able to assess the fitness of Ashley Young and Nani.
Obviously, a loan move wouldn’t mark the end of Zaha's time at United, but it is nonetheless concerning. At 21 years old, Zaha is Januzaj’s senior by three years. And the Belgian hasn’t exactly struggled, has he? The point is this: Zaha should not have been given just 167 minutes to show what he can do by the time January rolled around.
Is a loan deal right for Zaha?
That’s not good enough.
Sure, there may be reasons why Moyes hasn’t included him. And they could be fully justifiable, too. But all personal and private issues should be put to one side—if there even are any. Similarly, underperforming on the training ground should not be met with complete and utter isolation.
Zaha was Crystal Palace’s go-to man. Zaha convinced Sir Alex Ferguson to part with a large chunk of money. But Zaha hasn’t been given the chance to repay that faith, rightly or wrongly.
Unless otherwise stated, all statistics were obtained from WhoScored.com