Federico Macheda saves the day for Manchester United again

11 April 2009 06:31
Federico Macheda was not even born when Ferguson won his first piece of silverware at Old Trafford but for the second week running his latest fledgling secured late victory, returning the champions back to the top of the league.

It might not have had the technical excellence of his spectacular winning goal against Aston Villa last week but with only his second touch the 17-year-old Italian striker instinctively cushioned Michael Carrick's mis-hit shot beyond Craig Gordon, to send the away fans into rapture. Macheda is now averaging a goal every 22 minutes.

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Macheda, or Kiko as he is known, is moving in elite circles now. Before kick-off he was included in an exclusive game of head tennis with Cristiano Ronaldo, Patrice Evra, Nani and Anderson.

And it was with Ronaldo that he vigorously celebrated his winning goal. In the dressing room politics of Old Trafford, that is the big time. 'Everything he touches turns to gold at the moment,' said a rueful Ricky Sbragia, the Sunderland manager.

While Macheda can do no wrong in a United shirt, the same cannot be said of his new patron. Ronaldo was rested here after incurring Alex Ferguson's displeasure for giving the ball too much against Porto in the week.

He remains United's most potent attacking player but his attitude is becoming a problem – perhaps this demotion will refresh his hunger for the contest.

There was plenty of that for Sunderland, who played with terrific commitment between the first concession and the second.

They have not won in seven games but this was a vast improvement in performance, the team driven on by the excellent Phil Bardsley, captain against his former club. While they tired badly, there was plenty of optimism to draw from this for Sbragia, going into their six decisive games.

There were reasons to be cheerful for United before kick off. With Dimitar Berbatov a surprise inclusion after recovering a week early from an ankle injury, United had plenty of firepower on the field and it started to plan as they eased into the lead, 19 minutes in.

Berbatov held up the ball well before dishing out left to Wayne Rooney. The England striker cut inside and chipped in a cross that Paul Scholes guided into the top corner with a cute header – it was a goal reminiscent of his early-career surges into the box.

Only a couple of minutes before the goal Danny Collins had blocked Nemanaja Vidic's headed effort on the line and it had looked ominous for Sbragia's men. But rather than simply cave in, Sunderland responded superbly.

Their crisp approach play carved out a series of good first-half chances, Kenwyne Jones and Calum Davenport going close. They seemed to have got the equaliser five minutes before the break, but Carlos Edwards' cross deflected off Vidic and came back off the post.

Sunderland were not to be deferred for long. Ten minutes into the second half and Teemu Tainio got down the left and sent in a cross the lured Ben Foster off his line.

The United goalkeeper missed it though and Jones headed it against Jonny Evans at the far post, the ball dropping back to the off-balance striker who flicked it into the net with the outside of his boot.

Sunderland, though, struggled to maintain the intense pace they were playing at. Djibril Cisse had hooked the ball into the side-netting as Sunderland strove for the lead but with Ferguson sending on the cavalry – Ronaldo, Macheda and Anderson – Sbragia must have feared the worst.

Then with only 14 minutes left, Macheda made his crucial intervention. The only downside for Kiko is that he cannot now play enough games to earn a Premier League medal – even though his twin contributions may well turn out to have been decisive.


Source: Telegraph

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