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Manchester United's Federico Macheda falling further and further behind

It hasn't been a good 2012 for Federico Macheda, and the Manchester United striker has an important decision to make in January.

Manchester United won at Aston Villa at the weekend, thanks to the impact of an irrepressible substitute.

Sound familiar? It certainly should to Federico Macheda, whose winning goal and impact at Old Trafford in April 2009 will live long in the memory of Manchester United supporters.

It appeared that day that United's next sensational striking talent and well and truly arrived, but since that match he has scored just four goals for the club in competitive matches.

Apart from the odd flash in pre-season games, its been difficult for supporters to get excited about the Italian over the past couple of years, he has failed to seize the opportunities which have come his way, and they have become increasingly sporadic.

His two loan spells, with Sampdoria and QPR turned into complete disasters, and his future at United is looking increasingly bleak.

The striker is fifth choice at present behind Van Persie, Rooney, Hernandez and Welbeck (who himself is struggling for regular action of late), and you suspect when Will Keane returns to fitness he will jump ahead in the queue.

The big kick in the teeth to the striker this season has been his omission from the League Cup squads, matches where he would at least have hoped for playing time, but he failed to make the bench against Newcastle or Chelsea. 

With the club eliminated from the competition, his hopes for action rest on the two dead-rubbers in the Champions League, with United safely qualified in first place, perhaps he will get a run out at home to Cluj in the final game - but based on the way his season is panning out don't count on it.

He hasn't scored for the under-21s since September, and he was hauled off shortly after half-time against Newcastle on Monday. Even Bebe - Another case entirely - made it to the 89th minute.

For illustration of how his star has waned, look at his international involvement - Or lack of it.

Italy's under-21 side played last night, losing 3-1 to Spain, and Macheda was nowhere in sight.

Still eligible for the side, he has not been picked since August 2011, and a return does not appear imminent.

When you consider that United are considering splashing out £24 million plus on Porto's James Rodriguez - Who is the same age, 21, it really puts Macheda's progress - or lack of it - into context.

Macheda needs to move on and reinvent his career, for the sake of himself. Whether he wants to give it one more shot of going on loan, before likely leaving in the summer permanently is up to him.

But barring a dramatic turnaround and upturn in fortunes in 2013, he would be delaying the inevitable, sad as it may be.


image: © apasciuto

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