Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has opened up on his brief spell at Manchester United, insisting he was never given the chance to prove himself.
Zaha was Sir Alex Ferguson’s last signing as manager at Old Trafford, arriving at the club in the January transfer window back in 2013 from Palace. The pacey attacker proved himself as a tricky, exciting and unpredictable player capable of bamboozling even the meanest of defences during his first spell at Selhurst Park, all before reaching 20 years of age.
The Red Devils had hoped he would develop into a world class player during his time at the club, however, as soon as David Moyes took over in the hot seat, the Ivorian was pushed way down the pecking order in the squad, despite his obvious talents.
Zaha spent two years on the United books and was loaned back to the Eagles twice either side of a temporary switch to Cardiff City, where he was able to play regular football. At the end of the 2014-15 season, he returned to Palace on a permanent basis, bringing a swift end to his spell in Manchester having only appeared 4 times in total in the famous red shirt.
Since then, to his credit, the enigmatic winger has gone from strength to strength, becoming more consistent and more clinical in the final third to help the Eagles establish themselves as a mainstay in the Premier League.
Zaha now looks back on his time at United as a learning curve, although he also still bemoans the way he was treated by the club, as he told Shortlist in a recent interview: “Obviously, getting to United isn’t easy, so not being given a chance is hard to take. I don’t regret anything because it made me stronger. I feel as though I can deal with anything now.
“I went through so much with United, with England. There were rumours that the reason I wasn’t playing for United was because I slept with David Moyes’s daughter, and no one attempted to clear that up.
“So I was fighting my demons by myself, these rumours that I knew weren’t true.
“I was dealing with this at 19; living in Manchester by myself, nowhere near anyone else, because the club had a hold over where I lived. They hadn’t given me a car, like every other player. Nothing. I’m living in this hell by myself, away from my family, and I thought, ‘If this doesn’t make me stronger, what will?”
While Zaha has boosted his reputation in recent years, United have continued to struggle in their bid to re-establish themselves as a major force under Jose Mourinho’s stewardship.
How the Red Devils could do with a player as direct and explosive as the Ivory Coast starlet now, given their well-documented problems going forward and perceived negative playing style, with big names such as Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez failing to produce the goods.
Mourinho’s next game in charge is on Saturday, as his team take on newly promoted Wolves in search of a third successive league victory.