Man United or a loan move? What is best for £15m Wilfried Zaha this season?
Manchester United have spent £15m on Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace. They don’t spend that sort of money on a player who they have no intention of using in the first team in the future, but is he ready for the big step up from the Championship to Old Trafford in 2013/14?
Zaha is a raw but extremely talented prospect who United feel they can develop in to one of the most dangerous wide forwards in the Premier League. His combination of size, pace, balance and a whole abundance of skill and trickery makes him a real handful to cope with. He stepped up his performances in the Play-Offs and almost single-handedly dragged Palace to an unlikely promotion. However, his return of 8 goals and 8 assists and an extended dip in form in early 2013 indicate that he might not be ready to start at United.
Zaha is just 20 years old and needs to be handled properly. He is at the exact phase of his career where young stars can be turned in to first team stars or they can run out of steam and lose impetus in their development. Realistically, Zaha is competing for one of the two wide forward positions as David Moyes is likely to roll out either a 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 system.
His competition for one of these spots comes in the shape of Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa and Nani if the Portugese stays at the club. Tom Cleverley or even Wayne Rooney could be used out in wider areas too. Zaha will start at the back of that queue as the youngest and least experienced.
Questions marks have appeared over the heads of Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia due to pretty underwhelming campaigns last season. Young struggled with injury after a promising debut campaign so it’s fair to expect that he can re-find those levels again once fully fit. Valencia was more puzzling. Normally the epitome of consistency and solid offensive production, last season he got in to good areas but time and again failed to find the right cross.
However, David Moyes will surely like his work rate and professionalism and give him a chance to get himself back to the levels he found in his first two seasons at United. Although Zaha was certainly purchased to compete for a starting spot with Young and Valencia after last season, it was not necessarily with 2013/14 in mind.
If he stayed at United, it’s hard to see a scenario where Zaha would get regular game time as a starter at United. And regular game time as a starter is exactly what he needs. He needs to be starting every single week in the Premier League and show United what he can do. It doesn’t really help him to play in the League Cup or if Moyes rotates the team against some of the smaller teams in the Premier League as it won’t push him to get better. With this in mind, a loan spell at a Premier League club is the best option.