5th April 2009, Old Trafford, Manchester
Seventeen-year-old Italian striker Federico Macheda makes his way onto the pitch after taking the place of Portuguese attacker Nani in the middle of the second half.
His Manchester United teammates are finding it difficult to break down a stubborn Aston Villa side, who are currently 2-1 up. Finally, they manage to grab an equaliser, scored by their enigmatic Portuguese playmaker Cristiano Ronaldo.
The noise in Old Trafford is deafening as the United fans will their team on and it’s about to get louder still.
Federico Macheda picks the ball up outside the Aston Villa box after a pass from Gary Neville. He turns and tries to get past his marker, but the Villa defender prods the ball away from him.
The ball only reaches Ryan Giggs who, 35 yards, out calmly controls the ball and then feeds the ball back to Macheda, who is now just inside the penalty area.
The young Italian striker has his back to goal and in an instant, turns with the ball, creating a bit of space ahead of the defender behind him.
Macheda hits a curling shot with the inside of his boot around Brad Friedel in the Villa goal and neatly inside the far post and wins the game for United.
This moment would propel the youngster into the limelight at a supersonic speed. Suddenly, everyone in football were talking about this young player and he was being hyped up to be the next big thing.
Macheda had been scoring goals for fun in both Manchester United’s Under 18 side and their Reserves but he was still a very young player. This didn’t stop the press branding him as the ‘Italian Ronaldo.’
Sir Alex Ferguson put him on the bench a few days later in the Champions League Quarter Final but he didn’t play in the match.
In the next Premier League game, away to Sunderland, Macheda was one the substitutes yet again. But this time Ferguson did call on him to go on and play.
The Italian replaced Dimitar Berbatov with 15 minutes to go and the score at 1-1. Incredibly, Macheda scored the winner within 45 seconds of coming onto the field and United ended up winning 2-1!
Sir Alex Ferguson rewarded Macheda with a four-year contract at the end of 2009 but he was used sparingly by Ferguson who wanted to send him out on loan to get first-team experience in England.
Many Premier League clubs came in for him but he insisted that he wanted to go on loan to an Italian club. Ferguson relented and Macheda joined Sampdoria, a move that he would say was the worst decision of his life.
Sampdoria used Macheda after selling one of their key strikers and at age of 19, he struggled with the responsibility and the fact that he had come from a huge club in Manchester United. He failed to scored in the 14 games that he played when on loan at the club between January and May 2011.
In the 2011/12 season, he was used in the League Cup by Manchester United and scored a goal from the penalty spot against Crystal Palace before going on loan to Championship side Queens Park Rangers. He didn’t get on the scoresheet in the six matches he played in for the London club.
Macheda didn’t feature for the United first team and went on loan to German side Stuttgart where yet again he didn’t score, this time in 17 games.
From September 2013 to January 2014, the Italian joined Doncaster Rovers on loan and scored three goals in 15 games. He then moved on to Birmingham City and in 18 games for The Blues, he scored 10 times.
At the end of his spell at Birmingham, Macheda went back to Manchester United but his contract was not renewed. He joined Cardiff City on a free transfer and stayed there until December 2016.
He made 33 appearances for the Welsh side in all competitions but only found the net eight times. He went out on loan once, to Nottingham Forest, but didn’t score in three games.
Macheda joined Serie B side Novara in 2016 and then left them two years later for Greek club Panathinaikos where he continues to play to this day.
For a player who started his career with such promise, he has faded away as quickly as he arrived on the first-team stage. It makes you think what would have happened if he listened to Fergie and went on loan in this country, instead of joining Sampdoria…..