Zaha Details Difficult “Set Up to Fail” Utd Spell under Van Gaal
Wilfred Zaha has let out how he suffered from depression during his miserable spell at Manchester United. He also reveals he was offered a single training session to prove his worth by Van Gaal.
Wilfred Zaha arrived in Manchester United from Crystal Palace in January 2013 when he turned up to his medical wearing a t-shirt with new team-mate Ryan Giggs’ former lover, Imogen Thomas. Under the then coach, David Moyes, Zaha made only four appearances at Old Trafford.
Having spent the second half of his one full season there on loan at Cardiff, Zaha returned to United which was now under Van Gaal. At this instant, Zaha recalled how the Dutchman forced him to turn into a striker in order to get into the team as he felt he was being set up to fail.
Drawing from his interview with “On the Judy”, Zaha talked of his time at United and his arrival under Moyes. He said, “right place at the wrong time. Really. I look back and think there’s nothing else I could have really done”.
“That whole period, people asked me if I regret it. But no. It’s a learning curve. It made me so much stronger mentally. I met some amazing players, some amazing people over there. I’m glad I went there and it made me who I am now”.
“I tied to go back on loan to Palace before and David Moyes wouldn’t let me. I don’t know for what reason. And they just shipped be off to Cardiff. I went there and I was a shadow of myself. I wasn’t speaking to anyone. The player that I am now, I was not myself at all”.
“So I went there, added relegation on my CV, went back to United. It was Van Gaal by then. And when he came back off the World Cup where he played Robin van Persie and Robben up front, so basically he gave me two options. You’re either a wing-back or a striker”.
“I’ve never played those positions before. So it’s like I’m being set up to fail here. This is off of coming back from David Moyes. And I’m shattered from just how everything worked out. I go back and I get that. Either a striker or a wing-back. I can’t do either”.
Now, I can vary my game with years of playing you get experience. Back then I wasn’t good with my back to goal, I didn’t have that awareness, I’m not good with that. I remember I had to play striker.
‘On pre-season, we’re playing Inter Milan, I had to play against Vidic, we played against Real, I’m playing against Pepe and Ramos upfront, thinking this guy’s boring me. It’s mad, I’m being thrown in the deep end against the maddest teams.’
It was after the pre-season trip to America that Zaha reveals he was given an ultimatum by van Gaal and his assistant, Giggs, and felt that he was on trial.
He continues: ‘I remember I came back that year – I don’t think I’ve said this before – they gave me one more session for them to decide [if you’re going to stay or not?] yeah. Van Gaal and Giggs was his assistant
These are things I don’t even argue with. That’s why I say it made me who I am now, my confidence and just how I am. It just changed me, all those things I went through.
‘This training session, I was basically on trial again. I remember the first time I went there I got a house, and this time I was thinking I didn’t know what was going to happen so I was just staying in a hotel – I had no idea what was going to happen with me.
“My brother was up there at first with his family, but then he had to go back so I was just by myself throughout the whole David Moyes period, that’s when I just went through depression and all sorts. I couldn’t cook so I wasn’t even eating proper”.
“That training session, Rooney told me I trained well. Went back in and went to see them and they were just like, “we don’t think you’re good enough – you can go”. This was pre-season. I didn’t [argue it]. I was so relieved, thank you for telling me straight and letting me go out on loan so I can restart my career”.
Zaha admits it was a difficult time for him, having left his home with Crystal Palace in south London for the reigning champions.
He admits to feeling adrift from the first team and was reduced to doing separate sessions focused on drills instead of full training.
He continued: “I was in a very bad place, literally going out all the time, doing mad stuff. I was a mess. When you know you’re not playing, the team are training and you’re just stood on the side doing some training drill”.
“I remember it was just me and Kagawa doing some shooting drill just the two of us. So, you know they don’t care about you basically. Not even training with the Under 23s, week in week out. You’re not getting a look in”.
Sir Alex Ferguson had originally signed Zaha and the Ivory Coast international was immediately sent back on loan to Palace. This meant he didn’t get a league winner’s bonus.
Neither did he get the chance to work with United’s legendary manager who retired that summer and chose Moyes as his successor.