Saturday, 16 July 2011

'Special' Federico Macheda piles pressure on Dimitar Berbatov

Special K is ready to push Dimitar Berbatov ever closer to the Old Trafford exit door.

Federico Macheda – nicknamed Kiko – fired a warning to the out-of-favour Bulgarian with a show-stealing performance as United kicked off their US tour.

The Italian under-21 international scored twice in the 4-1 win over New England Revolution – piling yet more pressure on Berbatov and giving the Reds boss a possible selection headache.

Ferguson once tipped Macheda to be as big a star as Cristiano Ronaldo – and couldn’t hide his excitement about his ‘special’ starlet.

“Macheda’s finishes were first class,” said the United manager. “He is special. At 19 years of age, we still have great hopes for him.”

Macheda is relieved to be back after a nightmare loan spell at Sampdoria, and believes he can make the grade.

“I am happy because I had a difficult six months,” said Macheda. “I couldn’t wait to get back here from Italy, even though it is my own country.

“There is a different mentality in Italy. They don’t see young players like they do in England. They don’t tend to choose them, especially when things are not going well. I am not scarred by it.

Hope

“You learn a lot from bad experiences.

“I grew up as a man. I have another mentality now.

“When you leave Manchester United, go somewhere else and come back, you realise how different it all is.

“It is better to work really hard and I hope to stay here.”

Berbatov has looked on the way out at United ever since being dropped for the Champions League final in May.

The £30.75m record signing has been linked with a host of Serie A clubs, as well as Valencia and Bayern Munich, but has joined United on their pre-season tour.

Despite finishing last season as the Premier League’s joint leading scorer with 20 goals, he has increasingly looked surplus to requirements.

Javier Hernandez’ outstanding first season in English football saw the Mexican established as firmly as Wayne Rooney’s strike partner.

Michael Owen has since been handed a new one-year deal and Ashley Young has been signed in a £16m deal from Aston Villa.

With Danny Welbeck and Macheda returning from loan spells, Ferguson admits he has been given a headache in terms of his attack.

“The problem for all the strikers last year was that the form of Hernandez was just too good,” he said. “We couldn’t leave him out, which caused a headache for me.

Choices

“I am going to be picking from six strikers, which isn’t a bad thing but sometimes that can be a confusing aspect of team choices.”

It remains to be seen how Young will fit into United’s system – but he could potentially become a seventh option up front, if Ferguson chooses to play him in an attacking three or behind a main striker.

“His capabilities are such that he can play at wide left, he can play in behind the strikers and he can play wide right,” said Ferguson after the New England game. “He showed he’s a fantastic crosser of the ball.

“I think he hit three fantastic crosses in the game, which maybe isn’t something we’re used to with the way we play.

“But if we do get used to it then there’s goals there. I was very satisfied.”

Meanwhile, Antonio Valencia has returned to Manchester to recover from an ankle injury picked up at the Copa America.

“It is nothing serious, but he wasn’t going to be taking part in the rest of Copa America, so there is no point in him coming out here if he is injured,” said Ferguson. “We have the facilities back at Carrington. That is the best place for him.”

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