Debates are often had about what separates the good managers from the great ones, but there are so many different things to factor in.
One of the main considerations has to be over how they use their players. There are some managers who have rigidly stuck to a system for years and they’ve seen success, but eventually they will get found out and the lack of flexibility will cost them in the end.
The truly top managers will find a way to put players in the best position to succeed by being flexible, and it sounds like that lack of flexibility is what set Wilfried Zaha back a few years during his time at Old Trafford.
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He didn’t really get a chance to play regularly and he was loaned out before returning to Crystal Palace, but there’s no doubt that the current version of Zaha would be a weapon in any team.
Thankfully he doesn’t go into any of the theories talked up by Patrice Evra, but he does explain how Louis van Gaal set him up to fail:
“I went back to United after that and it was Louis van Gaal by then. When he came, it was after the World Cup where he played Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben up front [for the Netherlands national team].
“He gave me two options: you’re either a wing-back or a striker. Those are positions I’d never played before, it was like I’m being set up to fail.
“This was after coming back from the David Moyes era and I was just shattered with how everything didn’t work out for me. Then I go back, I get ‘either you’re a striker or a wing-back’ – and I couldn’t do either.”
He does go on to point out that he’s a more rounded player now and perhaps he would be able to make it work with his current experience, but back then he was still learning and he felt he wasn’t being put in the best position to succeed.
His time at Old Trafford will always be one of those “what ifs?” in terms of how it would’ve worked out under a different manager, but it’s clear that he’s not happy with how he was treated.