Federico Macheda - The forgotten hero at Manchester United
The day was 5 April 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson was getting increasingly anxious as his team were held 2-2 to a rampant Aston Villa. The Scot decided that he would call of a mediocre Nani and replace him with an Italian teenager who could not stop scoring goals for the Reserve team. He wore the number 41 shirt and went by the name Federico Macheda.
The match had reached injury time and the clock was running down for Manchester United. The lanky Italian received the ball and made a curling effort towards the goal. Nobody could believe what happened next. Old Trafford erupted in cheers and applause. 17-year-old Macheda had scored on his debut with astonishing skill and accuracy. The Red Devils were sure that this young boy would go on to become a superstar, become one of the best players to put on a Red shirt. Ever.
Macheda was signed by Manchester United from Lazio at the age of 16 and quickly established himself as a key member of the Under-18 squad with 12 goals in 21 games. The youngster’s exploits with the Under-18 team led him to be called up to the Reserve team where he hit 8 goals in as many appearances, including a stunning hat-trick against Newcastle United. Macheda’s incredible feats earned him the prestigious Jimmy Murphy Young Player Of the Year Award.
The 2010 season was extremely fruitful for Macheda with strong performances against MLS All-Stars in United’s pre-season tour of America and a goal against Chelsea in the Premier League. Macheda once again found the back of the net against Aston Villa in a 2-2 draw. The forward went on to sign a new contract with the Red Devils that would tie down his services until 2014. It seemed like Macheda would become a first choice starter in the future, with youngsters like Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck already in the first team.
Unfortunately for Macheda, destiny had other plans for him and his loan spell with Italian club Sampdoria was blighted with injury and he was soon sent back to Manchester United. Macheda’s stint at Queens Park Rangers was also cut short due to an ankle injury. At the start of the year, Kiko was shipped to German club VFB Stuttgard, with a buy clause, but could not manage to find the back of the net in his 14 appearances with the club.
The summer of 2013 saw David Moyes take over the reins of the club from Sir Alex Ferguson and Macheda was used in the pre-season tour of Asia. Championship side Doncaster Rovers took the Italian on loan and he made an instant impact for the club with 3 goals in 5 games. A hamstring injury returned to haunt Macheda and he was forced to return to Manchester on October 8.
Macheda will have to be used very carefully if he wants to minimize the risk of injuries. Michael Owen is a perfect example of what nagging injuries can do to a world-class player. Manchester United already have a host of young forwards like Will Keane, Jesse Lingard, Angelo Henriquez and Nick Powell waiting in the wings so a permanent change of clubs would probably be best for Macheda if he wants to grow as a player.
Macheda may not be playing for United in the future but the Old Trafford faithful will always remember him as the boy who changed the game against Aston Villa.