Wilfried Zaha reckons he was ‘set up to fail’ at Manchester United by Louis van Gaal – because the manager insisted on playing him out of position.
Zaha was a highly-rated youngster when Sir Alex Ferguson signed him for £10million from Crystal Palace.
But the winger found game time hard to come by under Ferguson’s successor David Moyes, and was sent out on loan to Cardiff City.
Moyes had been sacked by the time Zaha returned to Old Trafford in the summer of 2014, and he had to impress a new management team in Louis van Gaal and his assistant Ryan Giggs.
But Zaha could tell things weren’t going to work out the way he’d hoped when Van Gaal made it clear there was no place for him in his preferred position.
Speaking to On The Judy podcast, Zaha said: “I went back to United after that (the Cardiff loan), and it was Louis van Gaal by then.
“When he came, it was after the World Cup where he played Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben up front.
“He gave me two options; you’re either a wing-back or a striker. Those positions I’d never played before. It was like I’m being set up to fail.
“This was after coming back from 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.”
Zaha ended up making just four appearances for United before being sold back to Palace for just £3.42m six years ago.
He has established himself at Selhurst Park, having scored 66 goals in 382 games for the Eagles and shown he can play across the front line, attracting interest from Premier League rivals Arsenal and Everton.
But he feels he wasn’t given the chance to develop properly at United when “thrown in at the deep end” against the likes of Sergio Ramos and Nemanja Vidic.
“I can vary my game now,” said the Ivory Coast international.
“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 Milan, I had to play against Vidic. We played against Real Madrid, I’m playing against Pepe and Ramos up front.
“It was like ‘this guy is boying me’. Bro, I’m being thrown in the deep end against the maddest teams.”