From the Premier League to Super League Greece via countless loans – the career of Federico Macheda, as Alasdair Hooper writes, didn’t quite hit the dizzying heights that were expected of him following a dream debut.
It’s Sunday 5th April 2009 and Manchester United are drawing 2-2 in a crucial game against Aston Villa. As things stand, Liverpool sit top of the table following a last gasp win over Fulham the day before. Dropped points are not an option for Alex Ferguson’s side.
Enter Macheda. The 17-year-old Italian curls in a stunning late winner, transforming his debut into the stuff of dreams.
His name is not only plastered across headlines, but Manchester United also regain the top spot and go on to win the league and a future star is born.
However, once we hop out of our time machine and back into 2021 – yes, the pandemic is still going – we see that Macheda’s career didn’t quite pan out in the way that many envisaged.
Although undoubtedly talented, and despite the crucial role he had played in 2009, it just wasn’t meant to be for him at Manchester United.
So, what happened next? Initially, a lot of loan spells. The first – in 2011 – took him back to Italy to play for Sampdoria, something Macheda later described in an ESPN interview as the worst mistake of his life. He failed to score a single goal in 14 games, and the team was relegated.
Then, after joining QPR on loan and having his stint cut short by injury, he was sent out to Germany to play for Stuttgart. Again, no goals. Doncaster Rovers was his destination in September 2013, where he scored three goals in 15 Championship appearances.
His next move saw him stay within the second tier, joining Birmingham City on loan in January 2014. His spell for Blues was a positive one and despite only being at the club for half a season, he finished as top goalscorer – 10 goals in 18 games.
Despite his improved form in the Championship, Macheda was ultimately released by Manchester United in May 2014. Just over five years after his crucial involvement in a title victory, his time with the Red Devils was over.
He decided to carry on playing Championship football and moved to newly-relegated Cardiff City in May 2014, who were then managed by current Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.Embed from Getty Images
The Norwegian had managed Macheda during his time with the United reserves, so the move made perfect sense, but ultimately the striker’s time in Wales failed to live up to expectations.
After an uninspiring first season, he fell down the pecking order during his second and was subsequently loaned to Nottingham Forest for a similarly tame spell. In August 2016, Macheda’s contract with Cardiff was terminated by mutual consent and he
left the EFL behind to join Novara in Italy’s Serie B.
After two years in Italy and upon the expiry of his Novara contract, Macheda left for Panathinaikos in September 2018 – where he remains to this day.
The Italian appears to have found some consistency and a sense of place at the Greek side in comparison to previous destinations. In two and a half seasons and in 84 appearances he has notched 31 goals to his name – becoming a key part of the squad simultaneously.
At 29, it’s safe to say he still has a few seasons left in him, and Panathinaikos will be happy to have him at the club with the form that he’s found.
So, while it might not have been the career we all expected the Italian to have after that incredible debut, plying his trade for one of Greece’s most popular clubs can hardly be viewed as a failure.
And, despite his rollercoaster career after leaving the Red Devils, he will always be remembered by Manchester United fans for the best of reasons.