Soon after Manchester United's snowy Sunday encounter with Tottenham Hotspur, the squad and most of the coaching staff hopped on a plane for four days of sunny training in Qatar. The one notable absence from the travels is Sir Alex Ferguson as according a report by the Guardian, he has stayed behind in England in order to seal a deal for Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha. The 20-year-old winger has been the player most strongly linked with United during this current January transfer window.
The likes of Chelsea and Arsenal have also been linked to Zaha with the former's manager Arsene Wenger even admitting last week that his club has kept a close eye on him. United, though, have been thought to be the front-runners for the winger because they apparently would be willing to loan him back to Palace for the remainder of the season. This possible agreement would be similar to the Chris Smalling one with Fulham in 2010. The rumored transfer fee is £12m. In addition to loaning Zaha back to Palace -- who currently sit 4th in the Championship table and are in a fight for promotion to the Premier League -- the Red Devils may also be willing to loan other players to them for the season's remainder. The Guardian mentions Nick Powell as a possibility.
The current wingers on the United squad are not firing on all cylinders so it would be a bit disappointing, if this deal does get done during this transfer window, that Zaha wouldn't be able to immediately join the squad. He is though, despite already making his England debut against Sweden in November, fairly inexperienced so it would have been difficult to anticipate him coming straight into the side and making an impact. Despite their poor or inconsistent form, the likes of Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Nani would be difficult to displace for this season's run-in. Fighting for promotion while playing regularly for Palace is probably best for his development.
If this deal goes through, it gives United a bit more flexibility with Nani. The Portuguese winger's current contract expires in the summer of 2014 and there have been no signs that an agreement over an extension is near. If he were to depart in the summer, a replacement would need to be lined up as depth out wide is essential for United because they're a side heavily reliant on wingers for chances created.