Teenager Federico Macheda declared Sunday the "best day of his life'' after scoring a dramatic late goal on his debut to seal a vital 3-2 win over Aston Villa and fire Manchester United back to the top of the Premier League table.
With Wayne Rooney suspended and Dimitar Berbatov injured, Sir Alex Ferguson turned to 17-year-old Macheda to help rescue United's flagging title charge as they trailed Villa midway through the second half at Old Trafford.
The young Italian provided more focus for United's attack. Then, after Cristiano Ronaldo had brought the champions level 10 minutes from time, Macheda curled home a brilliant injury-time winner to allow Ferguson's team to regain their one-point advantage over Liverpool.
"I have dreamt of a day like this,'' said Macheda. "I just turned and shot and ran to my family. They are very proud of me.''
Macheda was supposed to be returning to his native Italy to play a match but was called back by Ferguson, who wanted to put the 17-year-old on the bench for the first time.
"I was very surprised to get a chance but now I just want to keep going,'' said the former Lazio trainee, who moved to Old Trafford in 2007.
Villa were worthy of their lead but, as usual, Ferguson refused to accept defeat.
"In those situations, I gamble,'' said the Scot. "Winning is the name of the game at this club. Risks are part of football and this club has been that way for a long time.
"I love to see that kind of adventure. Yes, there are times when we don't defend properly - and we didn't defend well today - but there is always a goal threat.
"There is always a chance we can win the match - and that is more exciting than anything.''
Victory allowed United reclaim top spot in the league after Liverpool had overtaken them for 24 hours after their 1-0 win over Fulham on Saturday. United now lead Liverpool by one point, but have a game in hand over their rivals.
Meanwhile, Lazio president Claudio Lotito has called for a change in regulations to prevent homegrown players like Macheda from moving abroad.
The 17-year-old's performance came of little surprise to Lotito, who is still upset that the former Lazio trainee was allowed to move to Old Trafford two years ago.
"We tried in every way to stop Manchester United from taking away our player but the present Italian regulations don't give you any type of defence,'' said Lotito.
"In reality we find ourselves in front of a proper cattle market. I talked repeatedly with Macheda's parents, we established a dialogue, but it was not possible to do anything. We could not compete with United's offer.
"That is not right, we have to be provided with more reliable and concrete rules than those which govern Italian clubs.''
Italian clubs are prevented from tying a player under the age of 18 to a contract.
Macheda's agent admits the player still feels a special connection to Rome, where he grew up, but claims his client is content to stay in England.
``He will try to remain in England,'' Giovanni Bia told Sky Italia. ``He is happy, his family are working, although the lad is very tied to Italy. Rome will always be in his heart.''