Sunderland:Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed Federico Macheda as "something special" after the Italian teenager rescued Manchester United for the second week in a row.
The 17-year-old, who came off the bench to score the winner in a 2-1 victory over Sunderland on Saturday, is proving to be a crucial part of United's attempt to win a third straight Premier League trophy, even though he will not play enough games to qualify for a winner's medal if the champions do retain their title.
The Italian, who claimed a late winner against Aston Villa last week, was on target with his first touch and Ferguson is convinced that the player he took from Lazio's youth ranks two years ago is destined for a long stay at the top.
"He isn't fazed by anything," said the United boss. "I've had a chat with his family this week and he'll be okay. He will keep his feet on the ground."
Macheda's 76th-minute winner came when he deflected in a shot by Michael Carrick, sparking a debate over whether it was intentional.
"Everything he touches seems to turn to gold at the moment," Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia said.
"He was in the right place to deflect it, but I don't know whether he knew anything about it."
While Sbragia suspected it was a freak goal, Ferguson claimed that Macheda was simply confirming that he's a natural goal poacher.
The United manager said: "The boy has got something special about him. I haven't seen the goal again but one of the players told me that he tried it deliberately and sidefooted it in.
"He's quick thinking and goalscorers have that quality. He's got the instinct.
"I didn't say anything to him when he went on because he knows his role - and that's to penetrate behind their defence."
It was an untidy goal that reflected United's performance as they failed to build on a 19th minute lead given them when Paul Scholes headed in Wayne Rooney's cross.
Sunderland showed commendable spirit as they twice went close to an equaliser before Kenwyne Jones, the Trinidad and Tobago international, scored his first goal in two months early in the second-half.
Ferguson soon sent on Cristiano Ronaldo and Macheda in pursuit of a victory they badly needed. And the manager was relieved when the changes proved fruitful.
Ferguson said: "It was a big three points because it's not easy here. They have two big lads up front and put us under a lot of pressure. We've ground out a good result.
"The equaliser put us under pressure and you have to make decisions. Fortunately I made the right ones."
Sunderland have now lost four games in succession but this game strengthened Sbragia's belief that they can get out of trouble at the foot of the table.
He said: "My players gave me everything and that's all I can ask for. Now we've got to keep to that standard for the next six games."