Recent quotes from Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal may not have been pleasant reading for Wilfried Zaha.
After all, the winger was being told that he would have to significantly adapt his game if he wished to get minutes at Old Trafford next season.
Speaking of the 3-5-2 formation that appears to be the way forward for United, van Gaal said of Zaha, “When we play this system he has to play as a striker, otherwise he cannot play.”
For a start those comments seemed to suggest that van Gaal did not feel Zaha could work effectively as a wing-back, a role that two of his other wingers – Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia – already look like taking.
Questions over Zaha’s defensive capabilities first came to light last season, and his manager at Cardiff City Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also suggested it was an area the young player needed to work on.
But van Gaal has gone one further by seemingly taking the defensive connotations out of the equation.
If Zaha wants to play, he will have to play in a forward position, and if he does it well – which he is more than capable of – he could become a player every bit as effective as Arjen Robben.
Van Gaal has already revealed that there is an open invitation for the Bayern Munich star to join him in Manchester. And while the Netherlands international has dismissed that option, his former international boss will be looking for players who can operate in the same way.
Zaha may be young but he is prodigiously talented and, with the right coaching, he could become a devastating wide-forward.
It is now up to the player to learn from one of the best managers in the game, put the work in and show he has a big future at United. After all, Robben was not always the deadly forward he has grown into.
Every great player starts somewhere, and for Zaha, his journey could well have started this summer…