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'The Worst Mistake Of My Life': Kiko Macheda Reveals The Moment It Went Wrong At United

'The Worst Mistake Of My Life': Kiko Macheda Reveals The Moment It Went Wrong At United
By Gavan Casey Updated
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Last Wednesday marked eight years since Federico Macheda introduced himself to the masses with a swivel and swing of his right boot.

Then 17, the Manchester United reserves star had been brought into Manchester United's senior squad on the back of a hat-trick versus Newcastle reserves, but more pertinently, due to injuries to Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov, and Carlos Tevez's tired legs following an international match with Argentina.

Having trained with United's first team for a grand total of two days, the young Roman was Alex Ferguson's last roll of the dice as his side sought a winner against Aston Villa, third consecutive title balanced as precariously as the 2-2 scoreline at Old Trafford. You know the rest.

We know, too, that he scored the winner at Sunderland a week later, and that he was widely tipped to become a legitimate star for United's first team (Ferguson once hailed his finishing better than that of Michael Owen). And we know that his career took an entirely different trajectory than what was expected of the former Lazio academy player, who had been poached from Rome by Fergie himself a year prior to his senior bow.

In a fascinating interview with Andy Mitten for ESPN FC, Macheda provided an extremely honest insight into his own shortcomings after such an extraordinary start to life in the Premier League.

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First, he talked Mitten through what it was like to receive the call-up to United's senior team, and score that memorable goal against Villa.

I thought: "Wow! Fucking hell!" I was a baby, just 17.

I didn't tell my family until after training on the Saturday, the eve of the game.

"Tomorrow we go to Old Trafford," I said to my father.

"What for?" replied my dad.

"I'm on the bench."

He was shocked.

My life changed that day and it has never been the same since. Nobody gave a f--- who I was before that goal but the day after I would go to the Trafford Centre and have 100 people around me. I enjoyed it at the start.

To this moment, it remains the best football day of my life. I woke up and I was on the front page of newspapers all around the world. My friends were calling me from Rome and crying down the phone. I went into training and all the staff were high-fiving me and saying well done.

Six years later, Macheda - after countless loan spells - was released by United, joining former reserve team manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Cardiff City.

Injuries at key junctures, and multiple subsequent surgeries, doubtless played their role as Macheda joined the list of United wonderkids who never made it at the top grade. The striker himself, however, points to one loan move which backfired catastrophically, and impacted the majority of his United career.

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Fergie wanted me to go on loan; I could see that was sensible. Many Premier League clubs came in for me including Everton and Sunderland.

But I wanted to play in Italy, in Serie A. Fergie did not agree and said I should play in England, where he could keep an eye on me. He said he didn't have the same power in Italy. I insisted on Italy and that was the worst mistake of my life.

Another mistake. I should have listened to Fergie. Sampdoria had been in the Champions League playoff that season; they had a good team. 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.

The Italian admits in Mitten's ESPN piece on a number of occasions that, due to Fergie's near-blind belief in him, he didn't work as hard at United as he might have. It's one of his great regrets. He currently plays for Novara, who occupy 11th position in Serie B.

"I'm still only 25; I'm working harder than I've ever worked," he says.

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I eat better than I ever have; I train before training. I don't do the minimum anymore like I did at United. I'll regret that for all my life, but I'm still young. I don't want any more regrets.

You can read the terrific full Macheda interview on ESPN, and if you're a United fan, we recommend you do.

SEE ALSO: 8 Years On From 'That' Macheda Goal - 6 Failed Man United Wonderkids: Where Are They Now?

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