Federico Macheda turned down Cristiano Ronaldo and has big Man Utd regrets

Man Utd 1 Leicester 1: Match in pictures

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On April 5 2009, Manchester United locked horns with Aston Villa in a crunch Premier League showdown at Old Trafford. Having lost their previous two matches against Liverpool and Fulham, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side needed to win. And they did exactly that, with Federico Macheda netting a memorable goal late on to send the Old Trafford crowd wild.

With Liverpool hot on United’s heels, and making a big statement with their 4-1 win on enemy turf, the Red Devils entered their match with Villa hoping to get their title charge back on track.

Things got off to a good start for the home side, with Cristiano Ronaldo curling them ahead with a direct free-kick.

Yet, as the pressure started to rise, United looked as though they were going to crash to another defeat.

Goals from John Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor had the Red Devils panicking, forcing Ferguson to roll the dice.

Off came Nani and Carlos Tevez, with the pair quiet on the day.

And on came Macheda and Danny Welbeck, whose careers were still very much in their infancy at the time.

In fact, for Macheda, it was his first appearance for the United first-team. By the end of it, his face would become known around the world.

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Ronaldo drew the Red Devils level with a striker from outside the area that snuck under the diving Brad Friedel.

And Macheda then produced a stunning strike late on to win the game, sparking wild scenes around Old Trafford.

It was meant to be the start of big things to come for the teenager, who was just 17 years old at the time.

And Macheda later admitted that he was so overawed he snubbed Ronaldo when the Portugal international offered to give the youngster his Man of the Match award.

“I have so many memories,” he said in 2018 when quizzed on his heroics.

“The most significant maybe it was the day of my debut with Manchester United.

“After the match, where I scored the goal of 3-2, and he had scored a double, he received a bottle as the Man of the Match.


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“He wanted to give it to me, but I refused because I already had one. But it was a very nice gesture from an idol like him.”

Except things never worked out for Macheda.

In the summer of 2009, United saw Ronaldo and Tevez jump ship to Real Madrid and Manchester City respectively.

Many at the time thought this move would allow Macheda to take on a starring role, having also scored against Sunderland a week after his Villa strike.

United drafted in Michael Owen but everybody knew the striker was a fading force due to his injury record.

But, still, Macheda wasn’t able to kick on.

And, in 2017, he admitted he was wrong to go to Sampdoria at a time where Ferguson wanted him to stay and develop.

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“I should have listened to Fergie. Sampdoria had been in the Champions League playoff that season; they had a good team,” he said.

“I was going to replace Antonio Cassano and play up front with [Giampaolo] Pazzini.

“I started well and scored straight away against Udinese, then started against Milan, Napoli, Juventus, Roma.

“But then they sold Pazzini to Inter Milan. I was only 19; I couldn’t take the responsibility that he had.

“We went down the table and I started to get strong criticism, with people saying: ‘He’s come from Man United; who does he think he is?’ For the first time in my life my confidence dropped.

“I began to ask myself: ‘Am I good enough?’ And I started to get injured.”

While Macheda has regrets over leaving United for Sampdoria, he did later admit that he was happy with his spell at Old Trafford.

“Manchester United was a very beautiful experience for me and I still have many fantastic memories of my time there. Memories that I still take with me everywhere I go,” he said.

“In Manchester I grew up not only as a player but also as a man and I will always cherish those wonderful memories of my time playing for the biggest club in the world.”

These days, Macheda is strutting his stuff for Panathinaikos.

He’s netted three goals from 13 appearances for the Super League Greece outfit and has previously had stints at the likes of Cardiff, Nottingham Forest and Novara in the years since leaving United permanently in 2014.

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