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Is Zaha The Man For United?

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It must be several months since Crystal Palace’s young prodigy Wilfried Zaha last opened a morning paper and didn’t see his name mentioned.

Previously it has been down to footballing ability alone, but since the start of January the idea of him joining Manchester United has become more of a possibility.

Zaha is a supremely gifted winger who holds the all-important burst of pace that sets players apart. His name has often been uttered in same breath as his England U21 team-mate, Tom Ince, our very own Nick Powell and other young established English players such as Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as real hopes for the new generation of the national team.

The question is whether now is the right time for him to make such a major move. For one thing, the spotlight may be on him, but at the moment it is being powered by an energy-saving bulb; at Old Trafford it will be on full power.

Theo Walcott is one example of a player who took his time to settle at a major club. He moved from Southampton to Arsenal in 2006, and a premature call-up to full England honours halted rather than sped up his integration into the first team. Oxlade-Chamberlain made the same move several years later and had a rather easier time, but he has still not reached his full potential.

But on the other hand, Wayne Rooney arrived at Old Trafford with lots of promise after his announcement-goal for Everton against Arsenal in 2002, and 15 goals in 67 league appearances, but did not flatter to deceive.

Already a full England international and one of the top scorers at Euro 2004, he scored a hat-trick on debut and 17 goals in his first season at the club. He has become a pivotal player for United, and despite a string of injuries, has established himself as a United great.

Zaha, for his part, has shown plenty of early promise, but it is a different matter translating it into playing for such a global club. As seems likely if a deal happens, he will remain with Crystal Palace for the rest of this season, which will give him a further few months of development in a team challenging for promotion.

Hopefully if Zaha moves to Old Trafford he will be able to fulfil the potential that is there, but don’t expect it to happen straight away.

By Daniel Matcham @@03matchamdan