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Former Man Utd striker reveals Sunderland approach; His tale comes with a warning for Januzaj

Former Manchester United prospect Federico Macheda burst on to the Premier League stage with winning goals in his first two appearances - one of them at the Stadium of Light - to give Alex Ferguson's team the edge in the title race of 2008-9. Now languishing in Serie B, the 25-year-old has revealed he was approached to join Steve Bruce's Sunderland as a 19-year-old. But, his tale should act as a cautionary one for another Red Devils prospect currently languishing right here.

Watford v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Former Manchester United striker reveals Sunderland approach

In a wide ranging interview with ESPN, Italian striker Federico Macheda has revealed he turned down an offer to join Sunderland in 2011 when he was at Manchester United.

Now aged 25, the 6ft 2in forward is playing his trade in the Italian second tier with Novara Calcio after something of a fall from grace since his days as a promising youngster under Alex Ferguson.

Macheda appeared to have the world at his feet when he emerged from the Manchester United youth system and burst into the Red Devils first team with winning goals in his first two appearances against Aston Villa and against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in April 2009.

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League
Macheda celebrates scoring against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in 2009
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

But after making a further handful of appearances in his first four seasons as a senior pro at Old Trafford, he went on loan to Sampdoria from where it all started to go wrong.

Successive spells farmed out at the likes of Queens Park Rangers and Doncaster Rovers followed before he signed for Cardiff City where his form died once more and he was put up for sale last summer.

The former Italy Under-21 striker was picked up by Serie B outfit Novora last December on an 18-month contract and has regained some form and confidence scoring two goals in his last six - his first strikes in nearly three years.

But Macheda has revealed his regret at not listening to Alex Ferguson when he was at United with the legendary manager insisting he would have been better served signing on loan for a club like Sunderland when he instead opted for Sampdoria in 2011:

I angered Ferguson. At Manchester I played a few games, but I needed to play every week. Ferguson wanted to send a loan and that was reasonable.

Many Premier League clubs wanted to take me including Everton and Sunderland. But I wanted to play in Italy, in Serie A. Ferguson did not agree and told me it would be better if I played on loan in England so he could watch me and told me that in Italy he would not have the same power. I insisted on Italy and it was the worst mistake of my life, I should have listened to him.

I started well and I played right away against Udinese, then I played against Milan, Napoli, Juventus and Roma....I was only 19 years old and I had to take a responsibility that I could not take.

Steve Bruce was manager at Sunderland at the time and that was the season in which a certain Darren Bent departed the Stadium of Light for Aston Villa. It was also the Black Cats last decent top tier finish - tenth - and from there it really has all been downhill in the Premier League.

A warning for Januzaj

Macheda's experience comes with a timely warning for another young Manchester United fading star - Adnan Januzaj.

Crystal Palace v Sunderland - Premier League
Adnan Januzaj
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Indeed, Federico Macheda is at pains to point out the difficulty which came with having a tag of 'Manchester United product' hung round his neck:

People were 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?"

Januzaj was supposed to be the next big thing. And even when Jose Mourinho decided he didn't want him this season and sent him to the Stadium of Light, the 22-year-old was supposed to be the next big thing at Sunderland at least. Heck, supporters even bestowed a terrace anthem on him in anticipation of what was supposed to come.

Now look. Januzaj's time at Sunderland appears to be all but over, culminating in a 70th-minute jeering off the pitch at Watford last weekend.

Watford v Sunderland - Premier League
Januzaj battling against former Sunderland defender Younes Kaboul in his last appearance against Watford
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

He hasn't been bad of late, he just hasn't actually done anything since he showed us what he can do two months ago during that fluke four-goal thrashing of Crystal Palace. And he hadn't done much before that either. And in fairness, the boos were as much about sending a message to David Moyes about Januzaj's replacement that day, Wahbi Khazri, as about the Belgian winger. But he was booed.

Dropped for the trip to Leicester and ineligible for yesterday's game with Manchester United, Januzaj might not be seen again in a Sunderland shirt. And Jose Mourinho appears to have indicated he has no future at Old Trafford either. At least that's how many have interpreted last week's comments from the Red Devils' boss.

Januzaj has been linked with a move to Ligue 1 in recent days with four French clubs said to be in touch with his agent. That's pretty much the end of his unsatisfying stint at the Stadium of Light.

But....Januzaj the next Federico 'Kiko' Macheda? Just possibly.