Former Manchester United hero Andy Cole has warned the club not to expect too much from youngster Wilfried Zaha in his debut season.
Cole, who broke records with his 93 goals at Old Trafford in the early days of the Premier League, has said that the youngster will have to work 'extremely hard' to get into the United team, and that fans should not put too much pressure on the tricky winger.
Zaha, who can play on the right wing or upfront, made the move north from Crystal Palace in January, but spent the rest of last season on loan with the Eagles.
Having linked up with United over the summer, he has impressed in pre-season, scoring in the club’s 2-2 draw against Japanese side Cerezo Osaka.
He also secured his first trophy at Old Trafford on Sunday, playing just over an hour in the 2-0 victory over Wigan in the Community Shield at Wembley.
These performances have not gone unnoticed, including by Roy Hodgson, who rewarded him with a place in Wednesday’s squad to face Scotland.
A new manager in David Moyes will give the entire squad a fresh start, and Zaha will be keen to impress to break into the team.
Zaha’s main rival for the right wing is likely to be Antonio Valencia, but with United competing on four fronts, both will be given ample opportunities.
United could prove the ideal platform for Zaha, who has the footsteps of Ryan Giggs, the Neville brothers, David Beckham and Paul Scholes to follow in, to name just a few.
Unfortunately for Zaha, his headline-grabbing performances in the Championship for the last two seasons have meant that expectations will be high, in spite of his youth.
New teammate Wayne Rooney, like Zaha, began his playing days elsewhere, but kick-started his Red Devils career with a hat-trick on his debut in the Champions League against Fenerbahce.
Zaha is already two years older than Rooney was at that time, and United legend Andy Cole has warned not to expect too much from the youngster.
In truth, it is not just Moyes that must keep his expectations realistic surrounding the Palace prodigy.
Zaha himself must battle to stay grounded, and despite his undeniably immense talent, he will not be the goal-machine he was at Palace – rather, barring any late twists in the transfer market, he will compete with Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck and last year’s talisman Robin Van Persie.
Lighting up the Championship was easy for Zaha but gelling in a hugely competitive Manchester United team will be difficult.
The Reds’ faithful will have to be patient, but the fruits of Zaha’s labour will surely pay off in the coming years.
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