Wilfried Zaha ready to make step-up under Louis van Gaal

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He arrived at Old Trafford in 2013 a promising young winger, full of running and flair and boasting a youthful enthusiasm aimed at challenging the jaded and inconsistent crop of Nani, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia.

While he never played for the club under Sir Alex Ferguson and seemed unable to prove himself to David Moyes, the arrival of Louis van Gaal and his emphasis on developing young players provides the perfect opportunity for Wilfried Zaha to make the step up and get his faltering career back on track.

Zaha proved a revelation while at Crystal Palace, winning a collection of young player awards and helping his side secure promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 2004/5.

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Extremely quick, full of flair and oozing confidence, it was of little surprise when Manchester United came in with a bid for the player in January 2013, which was accepted but saw him return to Crystal Palace on loan for the remainder of the season.

His full Old Trafford career began under David Moyes, but he found it difficult to force himself into the team, eventually being loaned out to Cardiff City for the second half of the season.

Zaha quotes

"To be honest, if you are not the manager's cup of tea, you can't do anything about it," he said of his former manager, "There was nothing I could do. It was definitely not my attitude. The manager had his way of playing and maybe I just didn't suit it."

While he showed glimpses of his undoubted talent at Cardiff, he was unable to help them avoid relegation and returned to Manchester still with a point to prove.

Fresh hope

Luckily, new boss Louis van Gaal seems eager to give youth a chance, as he has in the past, although he has instructed Zaha to play as a striker rather than at the wing-back position which is employed in his new 3-5-2 formation - a switch Zaha embraced with a positive attitude in the pre-season friendly against Inter Milan.

"I am used to being a winger but if a manager wants me to adapt to a new position, then I will have to - and I don't mind," Zaha said, "To be honest, it's not as much running as being a winger, so I will take it. I don't think I have ever played there before but I enjoyed it."

Van Gaal has a track record of developing young players but remained pragmatic about Zaha's chances this season after his performance against Inter:

"I was pleased. We have to see and wait. He has a lot of competition with the other strikers."

With Rooney, Van Persie, Hernandez and Welbeck competing amongst themselves for a coveted first team spot, it will certainly not be an easy ride for Zaha, but he has already demonstrated his talents in pre-season and will certainly be offered plenty of chances throughout the coming year.

"I just have to work hard and I have just done what he has asked," Zaha said, "All I can do is work hard and see how the season goes. It's a clean slate for me."

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Premier League
Manchester United
Wilfried Zaha

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