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Who is Federico Macheda?

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Macheda's early promise

By Nabil Hassan

If football fans across the globe had not heard of Federico Macheda before his wonder goal against Aston Villa, they certainly have now.

The 17-year-old Italian announced his arrival in English football with a dramatic and decisive injury-time curler, which gave Manchester United a 3-2 win and took them back to the top of the Premier League table above Liverpool.

But who is the player known at Old Trafford as "Kiko" Macheda and where did he come from?

Macheda was born in Rome in 1991 and began his footballing life at Lazio, where he would have stayed had it not been for Italian football regulations, which prevented under-18s signing professional terms.

FEDERICO MACHEDA FACTFILE
Federico Macheda
Born in Rome, 22 August 1991
Joined United in September 2007 from Lazio, aged 16
Signed professional forms on 22 August 2008, his 17th birthday
Scored a hat-trick for the reserves in a 3-3 draw with Newcastle in March

The striker had already been spotted by United's vast scouting network during his early teens and, sensing an opportunity, they got their man.

He was only 16 when he signed for United as a trainee in September 2007, a move that caused uproar at Lazio, who rated him so highly they had taken him to the senior squad's pre-season camp in the summer of that same year.

"Manchester United - as they have done in the past with other promising Italian players like Giuseppe Rossi - came in early and offered Kiko a contract as an apprentice," Giancarlo Galavotti of Italian daily newspaper La Gazetta dello Sport, told BBC Sport.

"Whatever happens in his future career, he will remain among the legends of Manchester United. It was a goal that at the end of the season will make the difference between United winning and losing the title."

Lazio chairman Claudio Lotito is critical of United's approach for the youngster, and believes academy players should be protected from the advances of overseas clubs until they are 18.

"We tried in every way to stop Manchester United from taking away our player, but the present Italian regulations don't give you any type of defence," Lotito said.

"In reality we find ourselves in front of a proper cattle market.

"I talked repeatedly with Macheda's parents, we established a dialogue, but it was not possible to do anything. We could not compete with United's offer.

"That is not right, we have to be provided with more reliable and concrete rules than those which govern Italian clubs."

Macheda moved to Manchester with his family - his father, Pasquale, his mother and his younger brother, Simone.

In August 2008, he signed professional terms at Old Trafford on the day of his 17th birthday and just eight months later became an instant hero for the Red Devils.

But what had the Italian been doing during that period?

Under the guidance of former United striker Ole Gunnnar Solskjaer - now reserve coach for the reigning Premier League champions - Macheda began getting to grips with English football.

He started in the youth team, but, under Solskjaer's tutelage, had been promoted to the reserves this season, scoring eight goals in eight games, including a hat-trick against Newcastle in March.

Those three goals, coupled with Dimitar Berbatov's lay-off because of an ankle injury and Wayne Rooney's suspension, led to Macheda being promoted to the first team against Villa.

Despite his age, Macheda has already physically matured into a man, something that has not gone unnoticed by Sir Alex Ferguson.

"The young boy Macheda is progressing exceptionally well in the youth and reserves," the United manager said recently. "He's a big lad now, he has improved physically. We're really pleased with him."

Macheda has been compared to team-mate Berbatov in style, although, as he showed on Sunday, the teenager is not shy of a challenge or two.

"Federico is a very good technical player," stated United Under-18s manager Paul McGuinness.

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"He is a real Italian striker. He might not look as if he is doing much but when he gets the ball his touch is very good and he makes good decisions.

"In some ways he has a style of Berbatov. He makes some very clever runs and is a very good finisher.

"He has fitted into the club very well and is on a really good wavelength with Danny Welbeck."

Berbatov's absence may provide Macheda with further first-team opportunities. He is now a member of United's 25-man Champions League squad for the knock-out stages after midfielder Owen Hargreaves was ruled out for the season with a knee injury.

Macheda's goal on Sunday has been compared to that of Steve Bruce against Sheffield Wednesday in 1993 because of its importance.

Bruce's late header clinched victory for United, with Ferguson's side going on to win the Premier League title.

It may yet prove to be a pivotal goal in the battle for the title but whatever the outcome of the Premier League race this season, a star has been born.



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see also
Macheda hails dream Man Utd debut
06 Apr 09 |  Premier League
Neville hails 'brilliant' Macheda
05 Apr 09 |  Match of the Day
Man Utd 3-2 Aston Villa
05 Apr 09 |  Premier League
Sunday's football photos
05 Apr 09 |  Premier League
Sunday's football as it happened
05 Apr 09 |  Football
Macheda's early promise
06 Apr 09 |  Football


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