Martin Keown believes it was inevitable Wilfried Zaha’s spell at Manchester United would end in ‘bitter sadness’ amid a troubling period in his personal life – but has backed the Crystal Palace star to secure another big move.
Zaha opened up on his tumultuous period at Old Trafford in a wide-ranging interview on the On Judy Podcast, admitting that he struggled to cope after being left isolated at such a young age following his £15million move from Palace in 2013.
The Eagles’ talisman, now 28, was Sir Alex Ferguson’s last ever signing as Manchester United boss before retiring eight years ago.
But Zaha’s dream soon turned into a nightmare and left United having made just two Premier League appearances, rejoining Crystal Palace first on loan and then permanently ahead of the 2015/16 campaign.
“I was in a very bad place, literally going out all the time, doing mad stuff. I was a mess,” Zaha admitted.
“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. 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 [Shinji] 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.”
Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown gave his reaction to Zaha’s revelations on Friday’s Jim White show.
“When you’re own personal life is out of control and when you’re not even eating properly then you don’t want to be within those four walls,” Keown said.
“And that’s because you don’t want to be left with your own thoughts and feelings so you’re out all the time, so it’s certainly not professional.
“There was only one way that was going to go – it was going to end in bitter sadness. I think that might be something in mind for a big club to take him in London, that he’s close to his roots.
“But he’s a lot older now. He was 20 years of age when he went to Man United – he was a kid.”
Keown also expressed his belief that the forward should have received more support from United at that time.
He added: “It was the club of his dreams. He worked very hard to get there.
“I went to the Man City training ground around five years ago and they had lots of different departments there – including one for player welfare.
“There was a big sign there telling those players that if they had any issues or concerns to come and visit them.
“I think really if you look at what happened at Manchester United that time; to be left with just two players doing a training session when you’re looking over the rest of the group… I think it’s pretty poor.
“When you want to give someone the best opportunity of their life you’ve got to give them a fair opportunity to do it.
“He talks about the last training session about almost being left on trial; just think of the pressure he was under.
“You see the way he plays now and he was definitely equipped to play for Manchester United but wasn’t ready at that point.
“The question will always be there does he deserve another chance to play for a bigger club? I think he does.
“You look at the way Crystal Palace have stood by him. I think he pretty much guarantees their success in the Premier League and I think that’s maybe a bridge to cross this summer.
“Is he going to stay or is he going to go? To me he sounds like he’s now ready for that big club.
“But for some players at a young player they’re not equipped and he certainly didn’t get the support he needed.”