Wilf Zaha was Sir Alex Ferguson’s final signing as Manchester United manager, with the Crystal Palace winger agreeing a deal in the January, ready to join at the club at the start of the 2013-14 season.
However, David Moyes was the manager in place at the time and, in an interview with The Daily Mail, Zaha has revealed the Scotsman seemed to have a problem with him from the start, criticising him for the clothes he wore, the cars he drove, and his fancy footwork.
It was the opportunity of a lifetime. The chance to play for Manchester United. It was beyond anything I could have hoped for and I treated it that way. I tried my hardest in every training session to show what I could do.
But when he took me out of the Champions League squad and put in Adnan Januzaj, who had never played for the first team, I knew then that this is way bigger than I ever thought and had gone way beyond footballing reasons. When it was not about football or ability, what could I do?
When Louis van Gaal and Ryan Giggs replaced Moyes and his coaching team, the situation didn’t get much better for Zaha. He claims captain Wayne Rooney would tell him that he worked the hardest in training, but when he spoke to the manager and assistant manager they would tell him he wasn’t good enough. This lead to him joining his former club Palace on loan.
Wayne Rooney said to me “you’ve trained the best”. Then I go inside, have the meeting with them and they just said: “We just don’t think you’re good enough”. So I said “OK then, I just want to go on loan”.
Not being given a fair opportunity to play at all and being called a flop is what hurt me even more. How can I be if I wasn’t given a fair chance? I see Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, these types of players, and dribbling wise I’m up there with them but they have been given the platform to perform. Every day I wanted to go on Twitter or Instagram and say something but I couldn’t. That would be unprofessional.
The loan deal was then made permanent, with him being welcomed back as the Prodigal Son by the Palace supporters. He has scored 33 goals in 176 appearances in all competitions in the last five seasons.