Wilfried Zaha could almost have been excused for taking it easy during the second half of this season, knowing that he will be a Manchester United player when it ends. But Steve Parish, the Crystal Palace co-chairman, who sold Zaha to United in January for £15m and then borrowed him back, knew that it would not happen. And Palace reaped the rewards on Monday evening when the 20-year-old winger scored the two goals against Brighton to set up a play-off final against Watford at Wembley on May 27. "We said to anybody who was interested: 'We just won't sell him unless you lend him back,' Parish said. "I knew he would come back and be himself. I know what Wilfried's like. Wilfried can sit in there and tell himself he's not interested, but once he gets on a football pitch it is just what he does. He clicks into gear and everything is natural. The more people kick him and the more they get at him the better he gets. What is he? Just 20? He's had the odd game which wasn't so great but I've never seen his effort waver for one minute."
Parish also praised Ian Holloway, the manager who replaced Dougie Freedman in November after the Scot departed for Bolton Wanderers. He had come under fire after a run of 11 games with only one victory before Monday's win. "Actually the bad run almost made him because I think he decided: 'I might as well be myself'," Parish said. "It's very difficult coming into a successful club. I think he was walking on eggshells and standing on ceremony a bit. And I think you saw what Ian does [on Monday].
"I can't think of many managers away from home at 0-0 in a game that could go to extra-time who throw on another winger and a striker. He did get a lot of stick. He's a man. That's what they do – they come through it. He was very strong in that period. He never wavered from his philosophies and he got his just deserts."Reuse content