Wilfried Zaha, Manchester United's most exciting (and most underutilised) acquisition of 2013, seems likely to be loaned out to another Premier League club this winter. The clubs associated include Everton (surprise, surprise), Newcastle United and, predictably, former club Crystal Palace.
United fans were initially excited by Zaha’s unharnessed horsepower, but his inability to break into David Moyes’ convulsant first team sees Red Devil fans enticed by what he might be, rather than what he will contribute to 2013-14. That probably means seeing him temporarily don blue or black and white.
A good argument is made by NBC’s Pro Soccer Talk that Everton might be an agreeable loan destination: the Toffees might be able to take points from other teams competing for the top four while getting the young England international the competition he needs to develop. A bonus comes in the form of manager Roberto Martinez, who dating back to his days at Swansea has nonpareil form at turning loan players into monsters.
What this theory fails to account for is that Everton, driven by a compelling foursome of loanees (Gareth Barry, Gerard Delofeu, Romelu Lukaku and possibly Zaha), might themselves muster enough points to keep United from Champions League qualification. Although it seems less likely, the same might be said of Newcastle United.
While Everton, Newcastle and Palace seem the most likely Zaha destinations, an under-the-radar option might exist. West Bromwich Albion boast a coach-turned-manager in Steve Clarke who managed the club to an upper half EPL finish last year and who has with Roy Hodgson turned a former yo-yo team into a solid Premiership club – albeit one that still appears to lack goals. Clarke also used temp man Romelu Lukaku in a devastating manner last year, has developed young winger Saido Berahino into a wonderful international prospect.
The Baggies sit fifteenth in the table and seem to have based much of their recruitment on maximizing returns from good, but not great players. The addition of Lukaku – who lopes around the field with the speed and manner of a big cat hunting – last term provided a physical weapon capable of freezing opposing defenses and creating space for midfielders like James Morrison. Were West Brom able to rotate Scott Sinclair, Berahino and Zaha, their forward corps would be perhaps more fascinating viewing than even the Man U Moyespocalypse.
Whether the Baggies have the available squad space and finances to make such a deal work remains questionable, but the club is certainly an option worth considering. It might make West Brom better, it would almost certainly make Wilfried Zaha better and would give fans of each side even more to tune in to.