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What does Wilfried Zaha offer Manchester United?

Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at how Wilfried Zaha could fit in at Manchester United.

He may have only just stepped up from the Championship, but the fact that he has cost a reported £15m will mean that Wilfried Zaha is under pressure to justify his price tag at Manchester United from the off.

Inconsistency will be accepted for a while by the Old Trafford faithful, but only if when the 20-year-old is good, he's very good.

But what does the one-capped England international offer the champions?

Well, if you've watched Zaha in action over the last three years with Crystal Palace, it would have became clear very quickly what his main asset is - pace.

Brighton's David Lopez and Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha battle for the ball on May 13, 2013© PA Photos

Now, being quick is one thing, but it will count for little if it is not applied correctly. Take Theo Walcott at Arsenal. Up until the most recent campaign when he plundered in 21 goals in all competitions, the 24-year-old had the unwanted knack of frustrating his managers, teammates and supporters.

The story goes that during an England training session prior to the 2010 World Cup, David Beckham, who had suffered an injury and had instead taken on a coaching role, was left infuriated by the youngster's inconsistencies. He had pace to burn, but a lack of confidence and poor decision-making would often hamper his performances greatly.

While Zaha may still take the wrong option (understandable considering his age), he can not be accused of lacking in self-belief. "Unless I'm looking at Ronaldo or Messi, I'd never look at someone else and think he's better than me," he said in an interview last year. Some will regard that as arrogant, others will admire his brashness.

He also breathes confidence on the pitch. The attacker is not afraid to drive at defenders, even if they have gotten the better of him during an earlier duel.

Crystal Palace player Wilfried Zaha dribbles the ball during his sides Championship match on 5 January, 2013© PA Photos

Palace fans will have their favourites, but it was his display in the playoffs that really whetted the appetite where United supporters are concerned. In the absence of leading goalscorer Glenn Murray he scored twice against Brighton & Hove Albion in the semis, before turning in a man-of-the-match performance in the final as the Eagles were promoted to the top flight.

In those ways, there are similarities to how Cristiano Ronaldo started life as a Man United player. The superstar we all know now was once a spotty teenager with a blonde curl who wowed Old Trafford with a 30-minute cameo on his debut against Bolton Wanderers in 2003.

That is not to say for one minute that Zaha will go on to replicate Ronaldo's success, just that there are some parallels at the start of their Old Trafford careers.

Like Ronaldo, Zaha has also joined the Red Devils when a place in the side is very much up for grabs. Ten years ago Ronaldo only really had to contend with Ryan Giggs and Quinton Fortune, as well as the emerging Darren Fletcher and Kieran Richardson for a wide berth.

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha is congratulated by team mates after scoring the opening goal against Brighton on May 13, 2013© PA Photos

At the time of writing, the current United squad can call upon Antonio Valencia, Nani and Ashley Young as out and out wingers. That trio managed just two goals and 10 assists in the Premier League last season, which makes the fact that United won the title even more astonishing.

Young in particular does not appear to be popular among the fans, with some having called for the club to sell him yesterday.

David Moyes confirmed earlier today that he will be keeping a close eye on Zaha during the club's pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia. Yes, he's raw and is in need of some fine-tuning, but all the basics are there.

It's down to the player himself now. If he shines this summer, a place in the starting lineup come the opening game of the season is there for the taking.


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Crystal Palace player Wilfried Zaha dribbles the ball during his sides Championship match on 5 January, 2013
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