Wilfried Zaha: Manchester United 'hell' left me 'fighting my demons by myself'
Wilfried Zaha has said he went through "hell" during his year-long stint at Manchester United, telling Shortlist that the club did not support him as he struggled on and off the pitch and left him "fighting my demons by myself."
Zaha became Sir Alex Ferguson's final signing at Old Trafford when he joined from Crystal Palace as a teenager in January 2013. However, after seeing out the remainder of that season on loan back at Selhurst Park and Ferguson retiring from management that summer, under new boss David Moyes his lack of playing time left him isolated and depressed.
"I went through so much with United, with England," Zaha said. "There were rumours that the reason I wasn't playing [many games] for United was because I slept with David Moyes's daughter, and no one [at the club] attempted to clear that up. So I was fighting my demons by myself, these rumours that I knew weren't true.
"I was dealing with this at 19; living in Manchester by myself, nowhere near anyone else, because the club had a hold over where I lived. They hadn't given me a car, like every other player [had]. Nothing. I'm living in this hell by myself, away from my family, and I thought, 'If this doesn't make me stronger, what will?'"
Zaha made just four appearances for United before seeing out the rest of the 2013-14 season on loan at Cardiff City, and the following term he returned to Palace.
The 25-year-old, who played for England at youth level and won one senior cap but now represents Ivory Coast, has rebuilt his career at Selhurst Park, where he has scored three goals in four appearances this season and signed a new five-year contract last month.
"When I was at United I had [money], but I was still so down and depressed," he said. "People think your life's different because you've got money, you've got fame, so they don't treat you the same."
Meanwhile, Zaha has come into criticism from Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez after complaining that referees do not protect him.
Newcastle face Palace on Saturday, and Benitez said Zaha should not be talking about officials before a match.
"I'm surprised because normally the FA deals with these comments, but I have a lot of confidence in Andre Marriner," Benitez said. "He has experience, even if his record with our players is not the best in terms of red cards, I'm confident he is a very good referee with a lot of experience and he will deal with the situation in a normal way.
"The way [Zaha] plays he will receive more tackles than other players because he likes to run at players... When we talk about you cannot ask for a yellow card during the game, [what about] asking for a red card before the game?"
Palace boss Roy Hodgson has, however, defended Zaha's comments.
"There has been no specific contact," Hodgson said. "People are entitled to say what they feel sometimes. I don't think we should be in such a rush to criticise someone for coming out and saying something heartfelt.
"It's the player making the comment, who has to stand for that and I don't think it's right for other people to chip in."
Information from Reuters was used in this article.