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HOW MACHEDA IS REINVENTING HIMSELF IN GREECE

Every Manchester United fan remembers that Federico Macheda goal against Aston Villa.The flick, the turn, the composure, the finish: it was a strike worthy of winning any match. Of course, that’s just what it did, and the Italian’s maiden goal for United could not have come at a more opportune moment.

The Reds had been trailing Villa as we approached the last 10 minutes of that crucial encounter 11 years ago, and were on the verge of falling to a third successive league defeat.

With Liverpool winning the previous day, and temporarily leapfrogging United in the table, the pressure really was on. Sir Alex Ferguson’s sides were renowned for being composed and unflappable in the final stages of a title campaign, but at that moment our confidence and belief looked extremely fragile.

In these times, big players are required, with big personalities, and they don’t come much bigger than Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese forward’s inch-perfect shot had levelled proceedings late on against Villa, before Kiko’s moment of glory came.

The 17-year-old had been in fine form for the Reserves in the weeks prior and was desperate to impress the boss on his first-team debut. He couldn’t have picked a more spectacular way to do that.

In the 92nd minute, Macheda received the ball from Ryan Giggs at the edge of the area and he exquisitely dropped a shoulder to leave Curtis Davies dumbfounded, before curling the ball past Brad Friedel in the opposition goal.

Old Trafford simply erupted, as the momentum in the title race swung back in United’s favour. The teenager added another winner just a week later, as the Reds saw off Sunderland 2-1, and was among the revellers at the Theatre of Dreams as we lifted the trophy in May.

Sadly, Kiko’s first-team exploits at United peaked in that magical month of April. After such a promising beginning, many believed the man from Rome would go on to establish himself as a top Premier League striker, but for a variety of reasons he never managed to again replicate that sort of magic in a red shirt.

Over the next five years, loan moves to Sampdoria, Queens Park Rangers, Stuttgart, Doncaster Rovers and Birmingham City yielded varying degrees of success and, in 2014, after five goals in 36 appearances for United, the striker departed Old Trafford permanently.

Macheda’s next move saw him join Cardiff City and link up with former Reserves boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and two years later the Italian returned to his homeland and spent two seasons with Serie B outfit Novara.

In 2018, the forward then moved to Greek outfit Panathinaikos, where he has been enjoying his career-best form over the past season-and-a-half.

From his 55 appearances for the Athens outfit, Macheda has netted 24 goals, including four in his last three games before football’s global hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At 28, the striker still has plenty of time to add to his goal tally in Greece, or wherever his career next takes him. Federico could well be a late developer and who knows, his best days may still be ahead of him.

Regardless of what the future holds for Macheda, he’ll always be remembered fondly around Old Trafford as the man who spurred United on to another league title.

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