27 - Federico Macheda Profile

Born in Rome, Macheda began his football career with local side Lazio. However, due to Italian football regulations preventing under-18s from signing professional contracts, he was not permanently tied to the club, and shortly after his 16th birthday, he was signed by Manchester United of England, where regulations permit the signing of players aged 16 and up. Following his family's relocation to England, he officially joined the club as a trainee on 16 September 2007, and began a three-year scholarship in the club's Academy.

He went straight into the Manchester United Under-18 side, and scored the only goal of the game on his debut, a 1–0 away win over Barnsley on 15 September 2007. In his first season with the club, he finished as the Under-18s' top scorer with a total of 12 goals in 21 appearances for the under-18s, and even made his debut for the reserves on 26 February 2008, when he came on as a 68th-minute substitute for Gerard Piqué in a 2–0 away defeat to Liverpool. On 12 May 2008, Macheda earned a Manchester Senior Cup winners' medal when he was named as an unused substitute for the 2–0 win over Bolton Wanderers in the final.

Macheda signed his first professional contract with Manchester United on his 17th birthday in August 2008. In the 2008–09 season, he continued in the under-18 side, while also making a few appearances for the reserves. Towards the end of the season, Macheda enjoyed an extended run in the reserve team, scoring eight goals in eight games, including a hat-trick against Newcastle United on 30 March 2009, and he was rewarded by being selected for the first team for the match against Aston Villa on 5 April 2009. With United 2–1 down heading into the final third of the game, manager Alex Ferguson substituted Macheda for Nani just after the hour mark. After Cristiano Ronaldo equalised for United in the 80th minute, Macheda won the match with a turn to evade his marker followed by a curling effort from just inside the area in the third minute of injury time.

Macheda was named on the bench for United's next two games – first against Porto in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final, and then against Sunderland in the league – making his second appearance for the club in the latter game. Just 46 seconds after taking to the field in place of Dimitar Berbatov, Macheda had the ball in the back of the net for the second time in his United career, deflecting a Michael Carrick shot past Craig Gordon in the Sunderland goal. With Alex Ferguson opting to rest his big-name players for the FA Cup semi-final against Everton on 19 April 2009, Macheda was handed his first start in a Manchester United shirt. However, for the first time in his United career, Macheda failed to score and was substituted for Dimitar Berbatov at the start of extra time.

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