Weight: 146 lbs
Age: 20 (11/10/1992)
Place of birth: Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire
National team: England
Preferred foot: Right
For the first time in 27 years, Manchester United is in the midst of a great moment of uncertainty. Sir Alex Ferguson has handed the reigns of England’s winningest club to David Moyes, who has admitted he is finding it difficult to bring in summer signings. Not only that, but one of United's most influential players—forward Wayne Rooney—has been linked with a move away to Chelsea, despite Moyes’ insistence that the player is not for sale. So, where does that leave the defending Premier League champs?
The answer, at least in part, could be on the back of the young and enigmatic Wilfried Zaha. The 20-year-old is already on the world football map, thanks to a brilliant campaign last season in which he scored eight goals and nine assists to help Championship side Crystal Palace gain promotion to the Premier League. Zaha was a constant nightmare for defenders, using his pace and sublime dribbling ability to routinely fly down the wing and cut inside before unleashing a shot or picking out a teammate.
Despite the fact that he has yet to play a single Premier League match, Zaha has already drawn comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo when CR7 first arrived at United from Sporting Lisbon. In one of Ferguson’s last contributions as manager, he signed Zaha back in January for £15 million, a purchase that could prove a bargain. Zaha has repeatedly won the praise of his former boss at Palace, Ian Holloway, who insists the winger is more than ready to make his mark on the Premier League.
Zaha, who was born in the Ivory Coast, already made his debut for the senior England squad in 2012. Judging from his control and composure on the ball, as well as his willingness to run at defenders, Zaha seems unfazed by the high expectations for both club and country. In the preseason, Zaha predominantly lined up on the wing for Moyes and seemed comfortable along the right channel, attempting through balls that we hadn't seen much of during his time at Palace. Zaha linked up well with Brazilian full back Fabio, as the two combined on numerous occasions to torch defenses in the final third. Zaha upped his stock by netting an injury-time equalizer that saved United's blushes against J League opponents Cerezo Osaka.
Zaha is now in direct competition with United’s incumbent wide men—Nani, Antonio Valencia, and Ashley Young—all of whom missed a majority of United's preseason trip. Perhaps a precocious talent with a little baggage is exactly what Moyes needs in order to get the ball rolling. If at some point Zaha inherits the famed No. 7 shirt previously worn by Ronaldo, Beckham, Cantona, and Robson (some United supporters are already campaigning), then Moyes won't be the only one at Old Trafford with huge shoes to fill.