David Moyes’s most turbulent week at Manchester United has been compounded by a bizarre outburst by Wilfried Zaha, with the out-of-favour winger insisting he has not been dropped because of a relationship with the manager’s daughter.
Moyes, who robustly denied claims tweeted by an Everton supporter earlier this week suggesting he had described fans of his former Merseyside club as a 'f------ disgrace ’, faces Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Saturday with Rio Ferdinand admitting he is uncomfortable with the Scot’s policy of naming his team an hour before kick-off.
United dropped to ninth in the Premier League, 12 points behind leaders Arsenal, following Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat at home by Everton, so the sight of Robin van Persie completing a full training session on Friday proved a rare highlight for Moyes at the end of a difficult week. The Dutchman is expected to replace the suspended Wayne Rooney.
On the day Newcastle’s Alan Pardew was claiming the champions no longer possess the aura of Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams, Zaha’s tweets would have proved an unwanted distraction for Moyes ahead of a fixture his team must win.
Having started only one competitive game since completing a £15 million transfer from Crystal Palace in the summer, Zaha has been tormented by gossip on social media suggesting that his lack of progress at United has been due to an alleged relationship with Moyes’s daughter, Lauren.
One national newspaper was banned by United earlier this season for referring to the allegations following a tweet by Zaha, but despite the claims having seemingly dissipated recently, the player tweeted about the rumours on Friday.
Zaha tweeted: “I’ve never dated or even met David Moyes’ daughter so that isn’t the reason for my absence in games...I would like to stop all these false accusations. I will play for Manchester United when my manager feels I’m ready...”
Zaha is expected to be loaned out next month with Moyes keen for him to gain experience elsewhere before being thrust into the first team. But Ferdinand, who could return against Newcastle, remains a key figure in Moyes’s plans, despite the player’s admission that he is struggling to adjust to the new selection policy.
“This manager is a bit different in that he doesn’t name the team beforehand,” Ferdinand said. “You don’t really get to know the team.
“The old manager used to give you a kind of a little bit of an idea if you’d be playing and stuff. When you know you’re playing the intensity goes up a little bit more on match day and that’s what you need to try and make sure you’re doing.
“It’s hard to do that mentally because you spend a lot of nervous energy thinking: 'Am I playing?’”
Sources close to Ferdinand have insisted that the player was not criticising Moyes.
When asked about the remarks, Moyes claimed he has numerous approaches to team selection.
“We do it in different ways,” he said. “Sometimes we name it, sometimes we name it late on. I think sometimes a lot of managers leave it so the press don’t get the teams too early.”
With Pardew claiming that Moyes would always find it difficult “to follow someone like Sir Alex Ferguson and the aura that the man had”, the United manager insists he anticipated a testing start to life at Old Trafford.
“I think it was always going to be a bit like that,” Moyes said. “It would have been the case if it was anyone else because it is a changeover period. I think we have given a few points away which would have made the whole thing look slightly different.”