Wilfried Zaha’s lack of game time with Manchester United has been well documented this year as the 20-year-old has been frozen out after an impressive pre-season.
David Moyes cited that wasn’t because he didn’t want to give him an opportunity but down to the fact there are so many wingers at United who all want game time. It all boils down to competition for places at every level for Zaha.
At United there is Nani, Young, Valencia, Kagawa, Januzaj and Zaha who all want the two winger positions.
For England’s Under-21s there is Ince, Sterling, Lingard and Zaha who all want the two winger positions.
Football at the highest level comes with added competition that he never had at Crystal Palace. If he was fit, he was a guaranteed starter for Palace even when not in the richest vein of form but with United, that doesn’t happen.
With Southgate’s Under-21s, it is more a case of the new England boss getting to know his squad that sees Zaha flit in and out of the teambut ultimately, it is all about the competition for places.
At United, the rise of Januzaj has not helped him get game time but Zaha needs to thrive in the face of added competition. He may want to have minutes on the pitch but it is down to how much Moyes trusts him to perform and if he doesn’t, Zaha needs to keep working hard on the training ground to prove he deserves to be played.
I’m a firm believer that the mental strength he would gain by staying at Old Trafford for this season could be a more valuable lesson in the long term rather than shipping him out on loan to get more game time. A loan move is a short term solution that doesn’t look at the positives of what being around the Premier League champions in training every week could have.
Ferguson famously told his players to ‘remember this day’ after Manchester City won the title at the last second and the toughest of situations can help improve players in a roundabout way. Although the situations are incomparable, the analogy is still the same.
Zaha can use this period to mould himself into a better player that fights hard and improves in the face of tough times. If he can do that, he will put himself in good stead for the long run.