What next for Manchester United's £15m invisible man?

Wilfried Zaha playing for Crystal Palace

Manchester United’s January signing, England youngster Wilfried Zaha was arguably the most exciting prospect in the Championship with Crystal Palace last term.

The 20-year-old winger who ended up becoming Sir Alex Ferguson’s last signing after 26 years in charge at Old Trafford made 43 appearances in the English second tier for the Eagles last term, scored 6 goals and made 10 assists before even breaking out of his teens.

The Ivory Coast-born England international was handed his senior international debut last November by Roy Hodgson and came on as a substitute against Sweden, replacing Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling but so far this term David Moyes has yet to give the youngster more than 40 minutes from the bench in the Community Shield.

Understandably, it’s going to take the young man time to develop to meet the requirements of the Premier League, never mind the Champions League and it’s completely understandable that the new boss has yet to place too much pressure on him at such an early and pivotal stage in his career.

He’s been on the bench three times in all competitions so far this term – twice in the league and once in the League Cup in midweek in the Red Devils’ 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford.

However, he hasn’t made it on to the pitch yet (aside from the Community Shield run out) and, meanwhile, its exactly as if the players who have featured in his preferred position have done all that well so far, either. You’ve got to wonder why the manager hasn’t at least given him a teeny tiny opportunity to impose himself on the team.

There’s no doubting his talent and, yes, he’ll need to work hard to step up both mentally and physically to play for Manchester United in the top competitions against the best players in the world but the only way he’s ever going to do that is by testing himself, trial and error and gaining experience through games.

Why didn’t he get the nod for the Capital One Cup? That is traditionally a competition where some of the top teams rotate their squads to include some of the prospects for the future and blood some youngsters. I know it was a touch clash against a big rival in a moment where Moyes was under pressure following the Manchester derby defeat but, still Adnan Januzaj got quarter of hour and he hadn’t even properly committed his future yet.

Meanwhile, United rules out sending him back to Selhurst Park for a loan spell this term – that would suggest Moyes did intend to use him as part of his plans and, yes I know, it’s still early days and there are plenty of games left to play and plenty more opportunities on their way to the young man who will be ardently trying to book his ticket to Brazil for the World Cup next year. He’s not going to do that with the like of Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott and Andros Townsend competing for his place if they’re getting regular action and he’s not.

It seems a waste of his talents at present – I’m sure over the course of the season we’ll se more of him or at least something of him but I can’t help but feel the player himself, the club and his country would benefit greatly if he’d have been allowed to go back to Crystal Palace to play football on a regular basis in the Premier League.

That would have been the ideal petri dish for him to grow in under the optimum conditions for his continued development, which if he doesn’t play this term will surely be stunted.

image: © James Boyes

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