Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has invited the ex-Italy international back to the club where he first got his real start in football almost two decades ago
Once touted as one of the most promising young players of his generation in Italy and pegged as a rising star when he was part of Manchester United’s talented youth academy, Giuseppe Rossi’s career eventually became derailed by a string of unfortunate injuries that continued to plague his playing career – and his reputation as a star to watch.
Having made just 14 appearances in all competitions under Sir Alex Ferguson from 2004 to 2007, the New Jersey-born former Italy international failed to break through to the Red Devils first team, and made a permanent switch to Villarreal in search of regular starting XI opportunities.
And now, after having a promising career derailed by injury, he has been given the chance to return to the club that gave him his first real opportunity as a professional footballer as Manchester United interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer invited him to train with the Red Devils and to build his fitness at the Aon Training Complex.
It was in La Liga that Rossi gained a reputation as a prolific striker after departing Man Utd and earned the nickname Pepito Rossi. It’s a reference to his namesake Paolo Rossi, who was given the alias of Pablito following his incredible form with Italy during the 1982 World Cup.
Rossi’s ascent as a lethal forward in Spain was stalled due to a string of major knee injuries, however, though he went on to enjoy spells at Fiorentina, Levante, Celta and Genoa after Villarreal and Man United. After scoring 32 goals in all competitions for Villarreal in the 2010-11 season, it’s safe to say that his fitness problems have been a detrimental presence in his career.
Despite a spellbinding time at Villarreal where he scored 82 career goals in five years, Rossi picked up an ACL injury to his right knee in October 2011 that caused him to be out for six months – and then reinjured the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee in training in April 2012, and was out for a further 10 months.
After moving to Fiorentina in 2013, his time as the leading goalscorer of Serie A with 14 goals in eight league appearances was compromised after he picked up a second-degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee after an infamous clash with Leandro Rinaudo of Livorno.
Another injury to the medial meniscus of his right knee in 2014 meant another five months out on the sidelines, and then in 2017, playing for Celta Vigo, he ruptured the ACL in his left knee once again in a game against Eibar that ruled him out of action for six months.
It was a far cry from the experience of a fresh-faced 17-year-old who arrived in Manchester in 2004, arriving from Parma’s youth club,
Back then, Rossi was a promising young star and a product of the Old Trafford youth system, having won the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year Award at the end of his first season. He has fond memories of the Premier League as well, coming on as a substitute for Ruud van Nilsterooy in the 78th minute against Sunderland and scoring the last goal in a 3-1 win after just nine minutes on the pitch.
Rossi and Solskjaer played with each other at Old Trafford in 2007 and Rossi, who was released by his most recent club Genoa in the summer (with whom he netted once in 10 appearances) is now searching for a new club – with Solskjaer encouraging other top sides to make a bid for the ex-Italy international.
“We’re not gonna sign Giuseppe, I think, but he’s trained well with us,” Solskjaer told reporters. “He has looked sharp. He’s looking for a club so he’s probably going to stay for another week with us unless someone takes him.
“He scored a fantastic goal in training and the gaffer turns around and says ‘What about that, son!’
“It’s helping him to get fit for his next move so if there are any takers it should be quick.”
Rossi made his first-team debut in November 2004 during a League Cup win over Crystal Palace, and went on to score four goals in 14 senior appearances, though never quite enjoyed steady first-team action.
However, his impact on his side during the Red Devils’ successful League Cup campaign in 2006-07 led Nemanja Vidic to hand over his medal to the former Italy forward, despite Rossi not playing in the final – as a view to acknowledge his contribution to the team’s accomplishments during the earlier rounds.
After a couple of loan spells at Newcastle United and Parma, Giuseppe completed a permanent transfer to La Liga side Villarreal in 2007 and continued to score goals across the continent soon after.
A speedy and mobile forward with a favoured left foot, Rossi was heralded for his creative play and was considered the full package of a striker. Intelligent with his movement off the ball as well as his instinct inside the penalty area and possessing an intense work-rate, Rossi was once regarded as one of the most talented Italian players of his generation during his time as a youth.
Compared to Italy countryman Alessandro Del Piero due to his gift of speed, passing ability and skilled dribbling, Rossi was known to be a talented playmaker as well as a scorer, doing well to link-up midfield play. He was versatile with his attacking positions as well, able to be deployed on either wing, as a second striker or a lone forward, or in an attacking midfielder role. Having been able to drop deep between the lines and involve in steady build-up of play, he was an asset to both the midfield and forward line of the team – while also being strong at spot-kicks.
Despite his talent, work-rate, skill and prolific goalscoring ability, however, injuries and fitness problems have constantly plagued his entire career.
He came up against the Red Devils in a Champions League group stage fixture in 2008, playing for 78 minutes of a goalless draw at El Madrigal, and now has the opportunity to train with the club that gave him his first opportunity in football.