If there were any doubts in Sir Alex Ferguson`s mind about the value of Crystal Palace prodigy Wilfried Zaha, they were dispelled in yesterday`s match against Bolton. Even the Bolton manager, Dougie Freedman, who was Zaha`a previous manager at Palace was stunned by the progress he had made in the short time since his departure.
Zaha created a number of chances throughout the match with some stunning wing play and showed great control and pace to bamboozle the Bolton defenders. He is exactly the sort of player Sir Alex has been searching for to replace the erratic Nani. The only stumbling block has been the value placed on Zaha by Crystal Palace chairman, Steve Parish, asking for £12m for a young player in the Championship division in England. However, it now seems that Sir Alex has been convinced enough to loosen the purse strings and meet the asking price, although it is likely to be paid in instalments as Zaha progresses.
Bolton managed to scrape a draw from the match yesterday against Palace, but even their boss Dougie Freedman freely admitted that they were lucky to escape with that result after having been run ragged by Zaha for most of the match.
It seems now likely that Zaha will travel to Manchester in the next 24-48 hours for a medical, once the fee has been agreed officially, and then sign the necessary documents at Old Trafford. He will then be loaned back to Palace for the remainder of the season, despite Sir Alex preferring to have him available for his Manchester United team straight away. This will be the compromise that sees Manchester United clinch the deal before anybody else can come in at the last minute to disrupt the deal.
This move will make a massive statement about United`s intentions and determination to stay ahead of the pack by getting another young England player in the ranks. This will be crucial in the coming months, as the row over Financial Fair Play accelerates.
If, as expected, Giggs and Scholes draw the curtains on their careers at the end of the season, the average age of the United squad will plummet into the lower to mid-twenties. Sir Alex sees this as his legacy to United for the future.
I broke this story last year and I have followed it through to the current position. I expect to hear an official announcement in the next 48 hours.