Federico Macheda only played 36 times in total for Manchester United but the club’s fans will always fondly remember the Italian.
After scoring eight goals in eight games for the reserve side, Macheda was called up to the first team by Sir Alex Ferguson for a crunch Premier League fixture at home to Aston Villa on April 5, 2009.
We all know what happened next. Macheda, aged just 17 at the time, came on as a second-half substitute and scored a famous late winning goal.
It was a goal of real quality. The teenager span his marker brilliantly after receiving the ball from Ryan Giggs before curling the ball past Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel.
Just as memorable as the goal itself was Martin Tyler’s commentary on Sky Sports: “Macheda. Great turn by Giggs. Comes out to Machedaaaaa!!! Astonishing!”
The finest moment of Macheda’s career
Watch the goal (and listen to Tyler’s commentary) here…
“It was my dream,” Macheda, stood next to Gary Neville, admitted in his post-match interview on Sky Sports. “To have my debut and to score a goal like that, I enjoyed it.”
Little did anyone realise at the time – Macheda, especially – but this one moment on his professional debut would prove to be the highlight of his entire career to date.
Although he managed to score on his next league appearance against Sunderland, it soon became apparent that some of the early hype surrounding the centre-forward was wide of the mark.
Released by Man Utd in 2014
United fans thought they’d unearthed a genuine superstar during the closing weeks of the 2008-09 campaign – but he was eventually released by the Red Devils in 2014 following a string of underwhelming loan spells away from Old Trafford.
Macheda flattered to deceive at Sampdoria, Queens Park Rangers, Stuttgart and Doncaster Rovers before bagging 10 goals in 18 games with Birmingham City in the Championship.
This earned him a permanent move to Cardiff City, also in the Championship at the time, in the summer of 2014 following his release from United.
The former Italy Under-21 international, who never made a senior appearance for his country, only scored eight goals in 33 games for Cardiff. He also had a forgettable loan spell with Nottingham Forest during his two years with the Welsh outfit.
His Cardiff contract was cancelled by mutual consent ahead of the 2016-17 campaign. After a few months without a club, he eventually signed a deal with Serie B side Novara in December 2016.
Reborn at Panathinaikos
Eleven goals in 52 matches was still enough to earn Macheda a move to Panathinaikos in September 2018 and the striker has enjoyed something of a renaissance with the Greek outfit over the past few years.
Macheda has scored 35 goals in 90 appearances for his current employers. He signed a contract extension last August, keeping him tied to the club until the summer of 2023.
A reasonably happy ending, then, to an undoubtedly topsy-turvy career.
Asked by United fan Adam McKola in 2020 whether he had any regrets from his time with the Red Devils, Macheda said: “When I was at United, I could have done something better but I was too young and not ready mentality – unlike now.”
Nevertheless, Macheda will forever occupy a special place in United fans’ hearts thanks to that one incredible moment 12 years ago.