Analysing Wilfried Zaha's Role and Where He'll Do Damage for Manchester United

Max TowleAnalyst IJune 14, 2013

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JUNE 11:  Ofer Verta of Israel challenges Wilfried Zaha of England during UEFA European U21 Championships, Group A match between Israel and England at Teddy Stadium on June 11, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

Wilfried Zaha may have flopped at the Euro U21 Championships, but hopes remain high for his impending arrival at Old Trafford.

The former Crystal Palace winger signed for Manchester United in January, but immediately returned to help the Championship team achieve promotion.

He was a luminary threat in the playoff final, winning the penalty that sent the Eagles to the Premier League.

Blame injury, blame fatigue for his underwhelming performance for England; no matter. His potential is immense.

United have a future star on their hands, providing he develops the right way under new boss David Moyes.

For all the good Nani has done for the Red Devils, Zaha should not aim to follow in his footsteps.

He must train hard and make the most of whatever opportunity he is granted next term under Moyes.

Here are a few thoughts on how Zaha will be used next season, and where on the pitch he will do the most damage:

Does the Left Wing Beckon?

It stands to reason that Wilfried Zaha will see the most playing time on the left flank for the Red Devils next season.

Ashley Young is the side's only natural left winger, but lacks the skill and natural ability to consistently threaten opposing full-backs.

He may track back and help Patrice Evra behind him, but this is no reason to keep around a primarily attacking player.

There is also Ryan Giggs, but his immediate future lies more in a central position.

Thus, there is an open path for regular first-team football for Zaha should Moyes want to use him on the left flank.

At Crystal Palace, the England international would regularly switch wings, particularly when things were not going his way in either case.

Though he is a right-footed player, he is versatile enough to play both roles.

The only issue with this is Zaha's crossing ability. He is not yet a strong enough crosser on his right, let alone his left.

He is at his best running directly at opposing full-backs on the left wing, cutting onto his right foot and shooting at goal.

Zaha could just as well do a job on the right, but comeback campaigns may well beckon for Antonio Valencia and Nani if they remain at Old Trafford.

A Central Threat?

It has been suggested that Zaha could eventually develop into a central forward.

Stuart Pearce has used him in this respect for the England U21's with mixed success.

He brings a flexibility to the side, but is not yet a true enough goal scoring threat to be the player Pearce wants him to be.

It stands to reason that he will be kept out wide for the Red Devils. He does not have the clinical finishing or aerial ability to cut it in the Premier League.

Besides, Moyes already has Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck and quite possibly Wayne Rooney at his disposal.

However, this is not to say that playing as striker is not his long-term calling.

At Carrington, the United coaches will train him up and develop his attacking instincts in the opposition penalty area.

One could draw comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo and his gradual transition to an inside position, but this would be unfair to Zaha.

He is his own player and must blaze his own trail.

How Can He be Effective?

Physically, Wilfried Zaha is already an elite footballer.

He is lightening quick, possesses two good feet and has impressive upper-body strength.

The 20-year-old will take on his opposite number, and often win. There will be times though, as is inevitable with a rookie to Britain's top division, that he will fail.

All good wingers have the ability to beat their man, the difference between the elite and the rest of the pack is in consistency.

Zaha could well be an impact sort of player at Old Trafford in his debut campaign.

He could provide a sharp injection of energy into a game late on, much like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did during his time in Manchester.

He won't score many goals either in his first couple of seasons, but could make a difference in other respects.

United lacked genuine passion on the flanks last season, the side's wingers played perfunctory football last term, having little influence.

If Zaha plays with a real enthusiasm next term, he does not need to beat his man every time.


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