Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal enter race for Zaha while Manchester United prepare for lengthy saga

By Ian Herbert

Manchester United must fight Arsenal for the services of Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha, despite impressions that they would enjoy a free run for the 20-year-old England international.

Arsenal have certainly been active observers of the winger, about whom United have opened discussions with Palace, with the north London club's chief scout, Steve Rowley, present at several of his games.

It now appears to be a two-horse race for Zaha, with United ahead. The Palace chairman, Steve Parish, is currently away and with the club aware that they will need to bring in a good transfer fee to assuage supporters who see Zaha as key to their hopes of promotion to the Premier League, a deal may not be imminent.

United host Liverpool on Sunday afternoon with Brendan Rodgers' team seeking their first win at Old Trafford since the 4-1 victory of March 2009, but the manager has said in the build-up he is not a "magician" as he tries to rebuild a club who have spent pretty disastrously in the past few years. "I will be able to improve players – that is my work and I have confidence in that," he said. "If I look at [my] first six months, there have been improvements in a lot of the players. I will be able to take them and wring everything that I possibly can out of them. But the bottom line is about talent. If you don't initially have that then it can be difficult.

"You look at Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique since the start of the season and we have added value back to them. Absolutely. That is something we will look to do because we don't have the resources of the top clubs who are out there paying big money. We have to find the difference through the coaching. We will always be governed by budget; always be governed by restrictions on certain things within the club because if you haven't got the money you can't spend it."

Though Sunday's game is essentially a match-up between the two best players in the Premier League – Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez – Liverpool have finally become less dependent on their talisman, with nine different scorers plus Suarez since the start of December. "I never worried about it," Rodgers said. "I always said it has to be more than Luis Suarez who scores. As the season has gone on people have improved and developed as players and [in] performance level and that has helped the team."

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