Friday Feb 12, 2021. 15:19
Wilfried Zaha feels that he was set up to fail at Manchester United by former manager Louis van Gaal.
The Ivory Coast international joined the Red Devils from Crystal Palace in January 2013 and turned out to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s last signing before the Scotsman retired from coaching at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Zaha struggled to break into United’s first team under both David Moyes and Van Gaal and recently revealed how the Dutchman made it almost impossible for him, following his return to Old Trafford after a loan spell at Cardiff City in 2014.
“I went back to United after that and it was Louis van Gaal by then,” Zaha told On The Judy podcast. “When he came, it was after the World Cup where he played Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben up front [for the Netherlands].
“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.
“I can vary my game now. With years of playing you get experience. You’ve seen me play up front for Palace these days. Back then I wasn’t good with my back to goal because I didn’t have the awareness. I’d stand on the ball and the defender would poke it away. I wasn’t good with that.”
“I remember I had to play striker in pre-season. We were playing teams like Inter, I had to play against [Nemanja] Vidic. We played against Real Madrid, I’m playing against Pepe and [Sergio] Ramos up front. It was like, ‘this guy is boying me’. Bro, I’m being thrown in the deep end against the maddest teams.”
Zaha, now 28, returned to Crystal Palace on an initial loan deal in 2014 before making the move permanent in February 2015 and has been at Selhurst Park since. The Eagles winger has scored 66 goals in 382 appearances for the London club. He only played a total of four first-team matches for United.
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