Southgate believes Zaha needs time to settle in at Old Trafford and will still look to him to produce for the Under-21s however much he is used by manager David Moyes.
"Having just moved clubs it's important Wilf beds in," said Southgate. "At his club I think there is a lot of expectation. But he's still the same lad who was at Crystal Palace a few months ago, just because somebody pays a big fee doesn't mean you suddenly mature overnight and know the game inside out. He's a raw talent.
"He'll be a key part of our side whatever happens to him this year. He can feel when he comes with us that he wants to be here, he's a big part of what we're trying to do.
"We'll pick players who are in form and showing well in training and doing well for their clubs - but with half an eye on what they've done for us in the past as well. I think that's the best way to approach it really."
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