Wilfried Zaha believes it may have been a mistake to return to Crystal Palace on loan following his Manchester United transfer in January 2013.
The Ivorian impressed for the Eagles in the Championship which prompted then-United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to sign the forward.
Zaha did not join United immediately as he was loaned back to Palace to play a significant role in their promotion to the Premier League.
Upon returning to United, Ferguson had retired – with David Moyes replacing the legendary Scot at the helm, meaning Zaha never got to work with the man that convinced him to move to Old Trafford.
“Things just happened quickly, I ended up going to speak to Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton in London,” he told The Greatest Game with Jamie Carragher podcast.
“It was just crazy, it was unreal, I went to some hotel, knocked on some massive door and Sir Alex Ferguson opened the door and Sir Bobby Charlton was sat behind him.
“It was like, ‘am I actually dreaming?’.
“Sir Alex Ferguson, who I’ve watched for years, tells me he wants me to be part of his team. It was all just surreal.
“He only really said he wants me to play for Man United, I’d play out on the wing, there’s other young players there like [Danny] Welbeck and [Tom] Cleverley that I’d get on with, and obviously when you come at first don’t expect to play straight away, you have to earn that position.
“That’s all he said really, I was fine with it. I was thinking, ‘I’m good with anything, the opportunity is all I need’.”
Zaha claims he was not told of Ferguson’s impending departure and believes the decision to go back on loan to Palace may have been a mistake.
He added: “I just saw it in the news and I was thinking, ‘this can’t be true, he wanted to sign me, he must want to see me play at least’.
“Obviously it’s football, you’ve just got to get on with it. When I signed with United I asked to go back on loan to Palace to finish off the season but when the season finished he retired.
“Even up to now, I think what if I didn’t go back, maybe I would’ve have been able to play with the team.”
Like many other United stars, Zaha struggled to impose himself under Moyes’ tutelage and made just four appearances before heading out on loan to Cardiff City.
He later re-joined Palace on a permanent deal and has flourished into a top Premier League player.
“To be honest, when I usually speak about Man United I wouldn’t say I regret anything but that is one thing I do regret because I didn’t push my personality,” Zaha continued.
“Because I’d never moved from Croydon, I’d never went anywhere, all of the sudden I’m in Manchester, I’m feeling homesick at times, I did not put how I play and my personality across at all. I was literally a shadow of myself.
“I think about it in so many different ways because different managers handle younger players in different ways because nowadays we see players who rock up to the first team at 18 or 19 and the way they are handled they flourish.
“I can say maybe it came at the wrong time, I was not mature enough. But at the same time, the way the manager wanted me to play, I wanted him to trust me, so then I kind of lost my identity as well because I stopped doing skills, and then it’s like, ‘who am I if I don’t do skills’. It’s a bit of both really, I’m a bit on the fence with that.”