Giuseppe Rossi.

Mutual pride between United and Rossi

Giuseppe Rossi breezed into the MUTV studio at the Aon Training Complex with a beaming smile and overall glow that said everything about how much he is enjoying working with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Manchester United squad.

The #10YearChallenge is proving popular on social media, but I doubt the New Jersey-born striker looks much different to how he did in 2009. To me, he didn’t appear to have aged too much since being the fresh-faced teenager who arrived at the club from Parma in 2004.

There is something so satisfying about making an invitation to the 31-year-old to train here and reach peak fitness in order to find a new club. Plenty will be in the market for a predatory centre-forward with skill, technique and an uncanny ability to find the back of the net.

Giuseppe Rossi when signing for the club.
Giuseppe Rossi arrived from Parma as a striker of real promise.

However, the bigger picture is it is a gesture that speaks volumes about United. It is a family club, no matter how large it has become. Giuseppe immediately mentioned how he was seeing the same faces around the place, even if he sometimes felt like that 17-year-old nervously making his way through the corridors and familiarising himself with his new surroundings.

Kath Phipps on reception has, famously, been here longer than anybody and is always the first person to greet you when you enter the building. Rossi played with Ole, of course, and worked under Ricky Sbragia, our Under-23s coach, in the Reserves. Mike Phelan is another familiar face and the list goes on and on.

While United offering assistance to a former player is nothing new, the man himself is testament to his finishing school in the Academy. Arriving from Italy, he grew into a player of real stature here and his 30 caps for the Azzurri were the least that could have been expected after his class became evident in the Reserves, when it was almost taken for granted that he would score in every outing.

A goal at Sunderland showed he could do the business in the Premier League and he sparkled in an FA Cup replay win over Burton Albion at Old Trafford, combining majestically with Ryan Giggs. I had the feeling he would show his true colours when playing alongside better players and so this appeared to indicate.

Yet, even at a young age, Rossi was ambitious and wanted regular first-team football. If memory serves me right, he grew frustrated when winger Giggs was handed the striking role for a game at Charlton Athletic and sought to go out on loan. Newcastle snapped him up but never really got the best out of him and it was only at former club Parma, later that season, that he proved his worth.

Having been such a firm advocate of the centre-forward, ever since seeing him play at Burnley in Stan Ternent’s testimonial (I think it might even have been his debut), I was terribly disappointed to see him leave permanently for Villarreal in 2007. It was no surprise to see him perform so well in La Liga but, since then, injuries stopped him being able to hit the sort of numbers, in terms of goals and appearances, he was clearly capable of.

Giuseppe Rossi playing at Burnley.
Giuseppe Rossi faces Burnley in Stan Ternent's testimonial back in 2004.

Somehow, the sadness I felt at Rossi never being the star at United I sincerely believed he would be was almost alleviated by getting the chance to catch up with him this week. Maybe these United players, the ones who work with the Academy and come through the youth ranks, never really leave the club at all. Certainly, in most respects, they at least maintain a strong, unbreakable bond with the place.

It is why United fans will feel pride most weekends – like the one just passed – when seeing things like Will Keane score his first goal for new club Ipswich Town, a crucial winner at that, Fraizer Campbell reach a landmark goal figure for Hull City and Watford’s strikes in a Premier League victory come from Craig Cathcart and Tom Cleverley.

There was another reason to smile when the vidiprinter churning out the latest information from around the grounds threw up Ethan Hamilton’s name. A goal on his debut for Rochdale. The production line has continued since he departed and keeps working so this is something Rossi acknowledged.

Tom Cleverley
Tom Cleverley scored for Watford against Crystal Palace at the weekend.

”United has a great youth system and bring through a lot of very good players,” he told us. “They are very motivated because, once you come into this training facility, you see what is around you and are so close to the first team. It’s just that extra motivation maybe a young person needs to stay for a couple of minutes after training to go to the gym or do whatever it is, in order to better yourself. United have produced a lot of players and are keeping with this production of young players.”

Of course, not every youngster at the club will make the first team. Some accomplish that feat but do not become regulars for years and years. Rossi falls into that category but remains a Manchester United man. It is a reason why we are proud of him and all that he has achieved and look forward to being cheered whenever we see him get on the scoresheet. Wherever his next move takes him, you can rest assured the goals are likely to follow.

The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.

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