Macheda stakes claim for first team spot



Federico Macheda’s two goals on United’s Asian tour have thrust the young Italian firmly into the first team picture, manager Sir Alex Ferguson claimed yesterday. After a close range effort against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, Macheda struck a superb goal against FC Seoul in South Korea yesterday. With United having lost two forwards this summer, the teenager has already staked a claim for the fourth striking slot this coming season.

“Macheda’s goal was excellent,” said manager Sir Alex Ferguson after the Seoul match. “The lad has a real chance and his movement is very good. He does well on the shoulder of the last defender and he showed that tonight with the goal he scored.”

Ferguson is not prone to over-hyping young players but the Scot clearly sees a bright future for the Rome-born forward. The 17 year-old, who is a product of Serie A side Lazio’s youth system, came to prominence with a stoppage time winner against Aston Villa in the Premier League last season. Another against Sunderland a week later sealed Macheda’s place in United folklore.

It is the coming campaign that is likely to be the Roman’s breakthrough in professional football. With United seeking to replace the 41 goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, Macheda is likely to be more important to the cause than he could have expected just a few weeks ago.

“If Macheda continues his progress, it will give us a big advantage. Having an extra player like that will do us a world of good,” said Ferguson.

“Macheda is top drawer, a hero in the making, just as Cristiano Ronaldo was. He does not have the lightning reactions of Ronaldo but he is quick around the box and has an eye for goal. It is hard to believe he is just 17.”

While the teenager will probably never possess the devastatingly destructive pace and goals to win games on his own like Ronaldo has in the past three seasons, the Italy Under-19 international’s finishing is reminescent of his reserve team manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Macheda’s rise to prominence is not without controversy though. United paid the player’s former club Lazio a pittance in compensation after his summer 2007 move to Manchester. It’s a move that characterised United’s youth system in recent years – plucking the best young talent from around the world.

“His debut goal for Manchester United is the result of a cattle market where young players are snapped up by rich foreign clubs,” claimed Lazio’s president Claudio Lotito in March.

“It’s unthinkable that a lad of 15 can be bought. Normally these boys are not from wealthy families and they look for alternatives in foreign countries for economic reasons.”

“We knew that he was a great player, we did everything to keep him. We can not allow ourselves to behave in a way which I feel is immoral.”

Immoral or not, nobody at Old Trafford will care if Macheda fires the goals to take United to a fourth successive Premier League title.

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