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Wilfried Zaha hits the ground running

2.66K   //    28 Jul 2013, 15:44 IST

Wilfried Zaha

It was the simplest of finishes – Wilfried Zaha stroking home with a soft instep to score into Kim Jin-Hyeon’s unguarded net as Manchester United drew with Cerezo Osaka on Friday night.

Zaha’s goal was the last of four in an entertaining encounter as United once again struggled to overcome limited opposition on tour. Yet, the strike could prove as important as any on tour – and a substantial boost to a youngster still finding his feet at the club.

After all, it can be no easy task joining United. The club’s sometimes chaotic summer demonstrates as much, with substantial change in the backroom accompanied by very little successful activity in the transfer market.

Meanwhile, David Moyes’ players will travel more than 25,000 miles before the Premier League kicks off in anger on 17 August. Along the way the side has lost twice to limited opposition, beating only Liam Miller’s A-League All Stars a fortnight ago. Yes, the Australians were that good.

Indeed, in a summer of some frustration both on and off the field a shining light could be the form of the new acquisition. The 20-year-old winger signed from Crystal Palace last January, but only joined the United squad this summer after spending five months on loan with the south London club.

Zaha has already made an impact and United’s investment of more than £15 million to bring the Abidjan-born winger to the club looks sound business, with the English under-21 international surely forcing his way into Moyes’ first team planning.

There are no guarantees of course, but with the youngster having featured in each of United’s tour games – more than two hours on-pitch time to date – Zaha will at a minimum make the bench for the Reds’ fixture against Swansea City in 21 days’ time. He might improve on that.

It takes not much to gain a place in United’s midfield, cynics will add. After all wide areas ran central midfield close as the most dysfunctional area of Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad last season. While Nani fell foul of an ongoing disagreement with the Scot, Antonio Valencia’s form and confidence fell off the metaphorical cliff, while Ashley Young spent much of the campaign in treatment. Plus ça change.

The new season will begin in much the same fashion with none of Nani, Young or Valencia on tour. The trio will struggle to make the new campaign match sharp.


Nani may well be sold this summer should United find a suitable buyer, while Young has rarely offered anything superseding the mediocre in two seasons at the club. Valencia has earned another shot at redemption, but there can be no repeat of the Ecuadorian’s disastrous performances of last season.

Little wonder Zaha has firmly rejected newspaper speculation of a move away from United on loan this season. Unless the club spends on a new winger this summer – and it doesn’t look likely – a place in Moyes’ side is there for the taking.

“My target is to get minutes during the season,” said the youngster on Friday.

“For my first season in Manchester, I don’t want to go out on loan. I just want to play when I get the chance. There are bigger players than me here, so getting minutes will just do me fine.

“[The tour] has been enjoyable. It’s the first time I’ve been away with everyone and I’m getting to know them and bond with them. I was awestruck when I first came. But just being around the other players makes me know they are down-to-earth players. They are just like me, really. They have made me feel at home. I feel like a Manchester United player.”

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