Giuseppe Rossi is back with the Manchester United family and looking to make up for lost time as the free agent steps up his search for a new club.
Raised in the United States and reared in United’s academy, the Italy international is back in the north west sharpening his finishing and fitness after a period punctuated by injury problems.
Rossi came through the club’s fabled youth system and became one of the continent’s brightest strikers, leaving Old Trafford for Villarreal in 2007 before a string of serious knee injuries threw things off kilter – setbacks that have failed to dim his hunger and positivity.
A free agent since leaving Genoa in the summer, the 31-year-old last week hotfooted it from his New Jersey base to Carrington as soon as the invitation came in from former team-mate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to train with United’s first team and aid his search for a new home.
“This just shows you how much of a family Manchester United is,” Rossi told Press Association Sport. “They have always taken care of their players.
“It’s a real privilege to have this opportunity and be given this opportunity. It feels really good.
“When I heard about this opportunity it just brought so much joy.
“It’s great to be playing with these exceptional players that I’ve been training with. It’s helping me stay fit and stay sharp because if you’re not sharp they’ll definitely be on you.
“I make sure that I’m doing the best I can to better myself but also to help the team do the right things in training.”
Rossi felt like a giddy teenager again when strolling back into Carrington, but this is not just a walk down memory lane. This is a chance to prove himself at a crucial stage of his career.
“I just love this game,” said Rossi, who is fit and free from the cloud of a potential doping ban.
“I sacrificed so much in these years, I’ve had many highs, I’ve had a few lows with these injuries that have taken a lot away from me but I never stopped.
“I always want to keep trying to achieve, keep trying to achieve, keep trying to get better and I just love this game so much that nothing’s ever going to take me away from it.
“It’s a part of me and I want to keep fighting and keep doing what I have to do in order to be where I want to be.”
Injuries have taken their toll and Rossi admits he sometimes wondered why he was still ploughing on.
His family have always provided him with the drive forwards and the striker feels ready to return to the rigours of club football – and appears to be holding his own in training, where his former manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been along to watch.
“I had breakfast with him at Carrington the other day,” Rossi said of Ferguson – a man he believes is “the best manager who ever lived”.
“We were talking and talking and he still remembers the transfer fee when I got sold.
“Just think about it: it was 11 years ago and in that 11-year span there have been hundreds of transfer fees and he still remembered my transfer fee when I went to Villarreal.
“It’s great to see him in high spirits and great to see him just being about here on the football field.”
Ferguson is the ideal mentor for fan favourite turned caretaker boss Solskjaer, who Rossi has a unique view on as the only person to have played with the Norwegian at United and be coached by him.
“It’s not an easy task to come to Manchester United, taking over in such a very critical part of the season and he’s been doing amazing,” Rossi said.
“He brought back the Manchester United way, he brought back the tranquility that maybe this environment needed.
“You’ve just got to tip your hat off to him and his coaching staff that have done just an amazing job.”
The long-term future is unclear for Solskjaer, just as it is for Rossi. Open-minded about his next destination, he is enjoying the moment with United and knows where he wants to be a year from now.
“Happy,” Rossi said. “A lot of things have been taken away from me as a football player due to these injuries.
“I’ve always come back strong, I’ve always been able to get back at certain levels but in years from now, I just want to say that I’m happy.”
Preparations are under way for Saturday’s match against Brighton, fresh from securing an impressive 1-0 win against Tottenham.
Sanchez missed that match with a minor issue, but the forward was in action at the Aon Training Complex on Wednesday morning.
However, star man Pogba was conspicuous by his absence as United built towards Saturday’s Premier League match.
Fellow midfielder Nemanja Matic was also missing after his partner gave birth earlier in the week. Chris Smalling has yet to return from a foot complaint that has kept him out since early December.
Former United striker Giuseppe Rossi was part of the Solskjaer’s group as he looks to build fitness and earn a move elsewhere.
The 31-year-old has been a free agent since leaving Genoa in the summer.
This was it, the first true test of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s managerial credentials at Manchester United.
After starting life at Old Trafford with a five-game slate against Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Newcastle, and Reading, games that could not be read into too much even though the upturn in performances from United was clearly evident, Sunday was the day we could finally take stock of how good a manager the Norwegian is.
That is what the narrative was ahead of United’s trip to Tottenham, who are managed of course by Mauricio Pochettino – among the favourites to take over at United in the summer, when Solskjaer’s caretaker spell is due to end.
Well, the former United striker passed his first test with flying colours. Now what?
True, the Red Devils’ win on Sunday was a narrow success, with the 1-0 margin underlining how indebted United were to their goalkeeper. David De Gea made 11 saves to emerge as the outstanding player of the match, ahead of team-mates Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, creator and scorer respectively of the game’s lone goal.
But Spurs’ second-half dominance and De Gea’s resistance to it shouldn’t take away from what Solskjaer’s team pulled off, not when the win came partly thanks to the sort of tactical tweak that can make or break a manager’s reputation.
All week long the question had been who would play as striker, the in-form and more mobile Rashford or Romelu Lukaku, who had managed three goals in three appearances under Solskjaer but would deprive United’s attack of the fluidity provided by a Rashford-Jesse Lingard-Anthony Martial triumvirate.
Come kick-off and the answer was revealed: neither.
That three-pronged attack was kept intact, but it was Lingard chosen to play through the middle, in a false 9 role that, by his own admission, he hadn’t played since he was in United’s academy.
The intention was clear. With his energy and diligence, Lingard could harry Tottenham’s centre-backs and deep-lying midfielders, while Rashford and Martial could run into the spaces his movement would create.
Rarely can a plan have worked to such perfect execution: United’s goal came about because Lingard dropped deep and cut off a passing lane, deflecting a Kieran Trippier pass straight to Pogba, who then delivered a sumptuous ball to Rashford, running into space on the opposite wing, with the young Englishman applying the finishing touch.
This is a manager’s dream, trying something new, rehearsing it during training, and seeing it come to fruition almost exactly as intended come the actual game.
Managers to win their 1st 5 league games for Man Utd:— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) January 13, 2019
Sir Matt Busby, Aug-Sept 1946
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Dec 2018-Jan 2019
Managers to win their 1st 6 games in all competitions for Man Utd:
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Dec 2018-Jan 2019 pic.twitter.com/lCfjFWNTZ6
Whether the idea was Solskjaer’s himself, or a brainchild of Mike Phelan, whose tactical nous had helped Sir Alex Ferguson during the latter part of the legendary manager’s spell in charge of United, it instantly burnished the new boss’ credentials.
This was not a win that was just about releasing the handbrakes and allowing United’s attacking players the freedom to express themselves, this was a win born of thinking, planning, and executing at a tactical level.
That it came against Pochettino, in a quasi-duel of potential future full-time United managers, gave the moment even more weight. This was Solskjaer outwitting his biggest rival for the permanent job.
#MUFC simply must retain the services of Phelan to supplement Solskjær, Pochettino, or whoever they ultimately select for the managerial role. He’s been there, done it, and worn the shorts. It should be a priority for any incoming DOF. Ensure Mick is on board in some capacity— Jonathan Shræger (@JonathanShrager) January 13, 2019
And to his credit, Pochettino did his credentials no harm, either. Though Spurs may have lost, the Argentine’s adjustment at half-time having lost Moussa Sissoko to injury early in the first half ensured his side were constantly on the front foot in the second half.
But for the brilliance of De Gea, they could have easily scored two or three goals after the half-time switch to 4-2-3-1 from 4-3-3, with Sissoko’s replacement, Erik Lamela, providing greater thrust to Tottenham’s attack.
The goalkeeper’s superlative second-half display ensured it was Solskjaer who had the last laugh, and while he can’t take credit for that particular aspect of United’s win, there was plenty else about this performance that bore his fingerprints.
Marcus Rashford has scored in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time in his career.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 13, 2019
Firing on all cylinders under Solskjaer. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/UbUXBNP39Q
Rashford had managed three goals in 14 Premier League appearances this season under Jose Mourinho. He’s now scored four in five under Solskjaer. The much-maligned Pogba has been involved in eight goals in five games since Solskjaer took over, four goals and four assists – having managed a total of six goal involvements in 20 games before this.
Getting those two to click, and especially Pogba, has been Solskjaer’s biggest achievement so far, even if it had initially come against weaker opposition.
Another point in the new manager’s favour: after the game, when he had become the first manager in United history to win his first six games in charge, Solskjaer was asked if his start had gone better than expected. His response? “This is Manchester United, you expect to win every game.”
Now he has a win in a big game to back up such bravado. Solskjaer’s passed his first big test, and shown he’s truly up to the task.