For all football fans the name Federico Macheda is synonymous with his match-winning strike on his debut against Aston Villa at Old Trafford back in 2009.
It was a tremendous goal that sent the packed stadium into raptures as it came out of the blue and, which meant so much as it catapulted manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s men to yet another Premier League title.
Thus nearly ten years ago, Macheda’s stock rose exponentially thanks to ‘that goal’ as Manchester United supporters still refer to it today.
But the fact that he was only 17 led to unrealistic expectations placed on him and unnecessary pressure as some journalists started to draw comparisons between him and Cristiano Ronaldo.
A mistake? Did they get ahead of themselves? Possibly as we all know now that the Italian’s potential was never fulfilled in the following years.
Sadly, that goal overshadowed his entire career as Macheda was unable to cope with the building pressure and thus lost his way.
Fans of Queens Park Rangers and Cardiff City fans remember him as a sluggish, slovenly and profligate player, a long way from the young man full of confidence and energy he was at Manchester United, when Sir Alex Ferguson took the plunge and handed him the debut that changed his life forever.
Incredibly though, the former Manchester United academy graduate has failed to develop into the world-beater that fans and pundits wrongly envisaged him to after his curled effort magnificently left Aston Villa veteran keeper Brad Friedel in no man’s land.
Today he is 26-years old and with a history of disillusioning stints at nine different clubs in three countries behind him, Macheda is trying to reignite his career at Italian second-tier side Novara Calcio.
Yet, despite moving clubs so frequently, there is only one club he holds close to his heart.
“The memories from that experience at Manchester United will live forever in me”, Macheda nostalgically recalls.
“It was a great experience for many reasons.
“I grew up as a player at United and thus I will never forget my Man United days.
“I don’t know where I would be today without that Aston Villa goal but it changed me for the good not for the bad unlike what some people might think.
“When I went to Man United my goal was to play for the first-team and I succeeded.
Former Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal was once famously quoted as saying that “Youngsters often play well in the first match. The second is different.”
The Dutchman hinted at the fact that it’s one thing to hit the ground running if there is no pressure, it’s yet another thing to shine when everyone expects you to do so.
But despite failing to live up to expectations and the difficulty to make up lost time at a mediocre Serie B side today, Macheda cherishes his Manchester United days.
But he doesn’t look back.
“No, no, no I have no regrets”, Macheda insists.
“It was very difficult to establish yourself at United given all the great players that were there back then like Giggs, Ronaldo and Tevez.
“I gave everything but I was very unlucky with injuries.
“Yet, I continued my own path and I have moved on now.
“True, I once said in an interview that Sampdoria was a negative experience but as for all the experiences, I will learn from it.
“In recent years, I sustained one injury too many but I feel physically good now to revive my career.”