Cast your minds back to the evening of 5th April 2009. In a hugely important game for their league title chances, United had just beaten Aston Villa 3-2 with a last minute winner scored by Federico ‘Kiko’ Macheda, a virtually unknown 17 year old Italian making his first team debut. It was one of the most exhilarating denouements ever to a game at Old Trafford.
When that was followed by Macheda scoring the winner at Sunderland the following weekend, United fans were understandably giddy with excitement; Macheda seemed set to become a world star with Sir Alex Ferguson even comparing him to then United superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo. In Rome for the 2009 Champions League Final, I remember there was a discernible buzz amongst United fans when discussing the 17 year old who was built like a 27 year old and seemed to possess the right type of confidence needed to succeed at the highest level. Many fans believed he deserved a place on the bench in his home city and there was widespread optimism that Macheda would develop into a United star.
Fast-forward three years and, regrettably, those dreams have never materialised into reality. The Italian has struggled to live up to expectations at Old Trafford; appearances have been hard to come by for Macheda since his debut but when he has played, his first touch and hold up play have left a lot to be desired. In Macheda’s defence, it’s hard to judge a player who is plunged into first-team action alongside other players short of game-time as has often been the case. In many of these games, the team has lacked cohesion and Macheda has had limited service. It’s a problem United must have recognised because with the Roman struggling for game-time, United have twice sent him out on loan in the hope that he would receive the regular first-team football needed to aid his development.
To say that those loan spells were disastrous is perhaps an understatement. Firstly, United agreed to send Macheda on loan to Sampdoria back in his native Italy for the 2nd half of the 2010/11 season. However, the Genoese club became embroiled in an ultimately unsuccessful battle for survival and the Blucerchiati manager failed to place his trust in the young Italian to save Sampdoria from Serie B. Instead, Macheda largely had to make do with substitute appearances. The same story happened last season. Macheda was loaned to QPR in January only to see Neil Warnock, the manager who had signed him, sacked. His replacement, ex-United striker Mark Hughes, seemingly didn’t rate Macheda, bringing in a raft of other attacking options which consequently led to Macheda once again languishing on the fringes of the first-team.
Macheda’s United Career
- 08-09 Apps – 3(2) Goals – 2
- 09-10 Apps – 5(5) Goals – 1
- 10-11 Apps – 5(7) Goals – 1
- 11-12 Apps – 2(4) Goals – 1
It’s fair to say that Macheda has a right to feel aggrieved at his treatment at both Sampdoria and QPR. Some people have pointed out that Danny Welbeck had a similarly disappointing loan spell at Preston earlier in his career. They are right in that anyone who saw Welbeck play at Preston would have been shocked at the way he has developed into an integral member of United’s squad. However, Welbeck then went on to enjoy a productive loan spell at Sunderland in 2010/11 in which the Longsight-born forward flourished. So the argument that Macheda has simply been unlucky only holds so much sway. Simply put, however unfortunate and frustrating those loan spells were for the Italian, the onus was on Macheda to make himself invaluable to those clubs so the manager couldn’t contemplate leaving him out of the team. Yet he failed to do so at teams with far inferior strikers to the ones he finds himself competing with at United.
Sir Alex Ferguson has regularly claimed that he has faith that Macheda will come good. For example, last summer Ferguson said this of Macheda: “He’s got something special. At 19 years of age, we still have great hopes for him.” However, the old adage that ‘actions speak louder than words’ appears salient in Macheda’s case. Because whilst the United manager has repeatedly sung Macheda’s praises, his actions suggest that he realises that the Italian is not good enough for United. Since his debut in the aforementioned Aston Villa game, the Italian has only made 32 senior appearances for United with only 5 Premier League starts.
And in that period, Ferguson signed no less than three strikers: Javier Hernandez as well as Mame Biram Diouf and Michael Owen, both of whom have since departed. The imminent arrivals – at the time of writing – of last season’s Premier League player of the year, Robin Van Persie, and the prodigious 18 year old Chilean striker Angelo Henriquez will only further limit Macheda’s opportunities. It doesn’t take a genius to conclude that if Ferguson actually thought Macheda would make it at United then he wouldn’t be signing other strikers whose presence will only serve to push Macheda further down the striking pecking order.
So given that Macheda hasn’t shown any indication that he’s capable of developing into a player who can regularly contribute and the fact that, barring an injury crisis of epic proportions, opportunities for the Italian are going to be extremely limited next season, I think it’s time for United to accept that sometimes things just don’t happen as one would envisage and say farewell to the Italian. Whether the initial acclaim went to his head, whether Macheda has been unlucky or just simply not good enough for United, one will never know. But wherever he ends up, he will always be remembered gratefully for THAT goal; the goal that more than any that season was instrumental in United winning the league for the third time on the trot.
Do you agree/disagree with my views? Let me know by commenting below!