England manager Roy Hodgson excited by Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha

Wilfried Zaha will be key to Crystal Palace's plans in the play-off final. Photo: PA

England boss Roy Hodgson has predicted a bright future for Wilfried Zaha.

It has been quite a season already for the Crystal Palace winger.

Handed his first full cap by Hodgson during the November friendly in Sweden, Zaha then became what turned out to be Sir Alex Ferguson's last signing for Manchester United prior to his retirement.

By loaning Zaha back to Palace immediately, Ferguson ensured his development continued, leading to a place in Stuart Pearce's Under-21 squad for this summer's European Championships in Israel.

And on Monday Zaha will feature in the biggest game of his life as Palace take on Watford in a £120million scrap for the final place in next season's Barclays Premier League.

So, whilst Hodgson accepts Zaha must take the opportunities ahead of him if he is to fulfil his promise, he feels the signs are encouraging.

"I like Wilfried Zaha," said Hodgson. "I think he is a good player.

"I went to Palace not so long back to have a look at him and of course he has a massive move to Manchester United.

"It seems to me he is on the threshold of something big."

Whilst life at United is not quite the same following Ferguson's departure, and David Moyes will find himself under far more pressure to deliver results in even the lowest priority competitions, Hodgson is confident the Old Trafford philosophy of giving chances to younger players will remain.

"He will be given the opportunity," said Hodgson.

"When a club like Manchester United is prepared to pay a lot of money for a player because they will help them to win things it is a tremendous boost to both confidence and ego.

"As coaches we can't do any more. After you have lit the touchpaper, all we can do is retire and hope they buzz."

Having committed to letting Zaha get some tournament experience with Pearce, Hodgson knows it is how the 20-year-old adapts to life at Old Trafford that will determine his immediate England prospects.

Others have something to prove over the next week as England take on the Republic of Ireland at Wembley on Wednesday before their quick trip to Brazil for Sunday's showpiece friendly in the famous Maracana Stadium.

With Steven Gerrard, Ashley Young, Jack Wilshere and Chris Smalling missing from the squad Hodgson announced last week, Andy Carroll pulling out and doubts remaining over Tom Cleverley due to a calf problem, it is not entirely the squad Hodgson would have wanted for fixtures that might be deemed an unnecessary addition to the season by some.

It is an argument he simply does not agree with.

"I can never stop emphasising how important playing for England should be," he said.

"If we are not careful we will lose sight of the fact that whilst the Premier League is fantastic and the Champions League and Europa League are big competitions too, international football is something apart.

"It only takes the World Cups and European Championships to come around to realise how vitally important people regard their national team.

"It brings people together. You should never debase the chance to play for England.

"Even if you are lucky enough to get one game it should be something that will keep you going in your football life and give you photographs and stories to tell your grandchildren."

With Rio Ferdinand and John Terry now retired, Hodgson will be looking for Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Phil Jones and Joleon Lescott to provide the central defensive lead next week, which will feature a welcome reunion with old friend Giovanni Trapattoni.

"Giovanni is a good friend and has been for many years," said Hodgson.

"He is one of the world's outstanding coaches.

"The game that stands out in my meetings with him was in the European Cup when my Malmo team knocked Inter Milan out.

"Overall I am in credit in our meetings but that doesn't mean much.

"I am not a great believer that wins in the past can get you wins in the future."