The football world was in shock when Manchester United signed Javier Hernandez.
Frankly, not many knew of the former Chivas Guadalajara player that Sir Alex Ferguson had acquired for £7m. United scouts kept a close eye on the Mexican striker for a few years, and were keen on signing Hernandez prior to the World Cup, as they were certain his transfer fee would increase at the end of the tournament.
Ferguson’s decision proved to be wise, as the Mexican striker scored two goals in South Africa against France and Argentina – both goals highlighted a few strengths in Hernandez’ game, such as his darting diagonal runs behind the defence and his ability to pull away from a defender in a split second and finish in the box.
Hernandez, who is known as Chicharito or ‘the little Pea,’ was ecstatic upon his arrival to Old Trafford, stating that he would get goose bumps knowing that he was going to join the Red Devils.
“I’m just full of gratitude to everyone who helped me accomplish this. Suddenly I’m going to be playing with the players I know from PlayStation and television. I’m living in a dream. I thank God that I am living it,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez, made the most of his debut season in the Premier League scoring 20 goals in all competitions, which proved significant as United wrestled the league title away from Chelsea in 2011. The Mexican striker’s pace frightened the competition domestically, forcing most teams to sit deeper, while his inch-perfect timed runs into the box showcased his proficient poaching abilities.
The partnership he developed with Wayne Rooney, who slotted into a number 10 role, grew stronger in the latter months of the 2010/2011 season, specifically when Hernandez picked up a brace against Wigan in February. Not only did Hernandez score goals, but his constant movement into channels freed up space for Rooney to operate in – with a Champions League Final appearance and a league title secured it looked certain that these two men would be the face of Manchester United for the future.
Unfortunately for Hernandez, Danny Welbeck’s return from a successful loan spell at Sunderland bumped the Mexican down the pecking order. Hernandez often started in away matches, as the likelihood of exposing opponents on the break were greater. Chicharito still managed to score 12 goals in all competitions that season, but with United losing the title to cross-town rivals Manchester City, the Red Devils were determined to improve – leading to the purchase of Robin Van Persie.
In the span of two seasons, Hernandez dropped down to United’s fourth choice striker, despite scoring more than 10 goals per-season since his Old Trafford arrival. In most cases this would be peculiar, especially when you look at Hernandez’ goal ratio – but the 2010/2011 season may have been the weakest, in terms of competition throughout the recent decline of the Premier League. Chelsea failed to improve their aging squad, City were on the verge of becoming legitimate contenders, while Arsenal collapsed in February after their shocking League Cup loss to Birmingham.
United needed more than just a poacher to play with Rooney if the Red Devils intended on competing in Europe, but also domestically, as City began to establish themselves as legitimate title contenders. Welbeck provided versatility, tactical awareness, discipline and strength, while Van Persie is a well-rounded world-class striker that can cause problem with his off-the-ball movement, dropping deep to link play and has been the Golden boot winner the past two seasons.
Hernandez was stuck in a dilemma as the Mexican failed to improve his all-around game, theoretically transforming him into a squad player. Still, Hernandez once again had an impact last season, often labeled a ‘super sub,’ the Mexican scored crucial goals to win games against Aston Villa and Chelsea. But with Hernandez recently turning 25, it’s time that both parties assess the Mexican striker’s future at the Manchester club.
For all the positives that Hernandez possesses such as his well-timed runs into the box, proficient poaching, and constant runs into the channels, the Manchester United striker struggled to feature regularly in the United starting 11. The Mexican striker has failed to make a consistent impact when given the opportunity to start matches, often becoming an isolated figured – albeit being able to poach goals is vital, Hernandez’ one-dimensional play puts him at a disadvantage – seeing as holding up the ball and linking play with the midfield aren’t strengths the Mexican possesses.
When asked about Hernandez’ future in late March, Ferguson was certain that the Mexican striker would stay at Old Trafford.
“As far as we are concerned he is a really important player. He does something different from the other strikers and any time he comes into a game he changes it,” Ferguson said.
“But it’s difficult when you have got a player of Robin van Persie’s form, and then you have got Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa. That’s been the benefit of having a strong squad – it gives us an advantage over the other teams,” he said.
Ferguson failed to start Hernandez against any of the top-sides in the league this season, and despite scoring three goals against Chelsea in cup competitions, United failed to record a victory. With Wayne Rooney possibly on his way out of Manchester, and David Moyes taking over as manager, Hernandez has the opportunity to re-establish himself as a permanent starter, but does that benefit United?
United are looking to once again become an elite European side, while Hernandez and the Mexican national team are hoping the striker plays on a weekly basis. Mexico has yet to secure a spot in next year’s World Cup, and one of the issues Manuel De La Torre’s side face, is their production in the final third. The Mexican manager will be expecting his star striker to be playing regularly if the nation has any hopes of qualifying later this year.
With adequate reinforcements rumoured to arrive at Old Trafford to strengthen the midfield and defence, United would be favourites retain their Premier League title, but a Hernandez, Welbeck, Van Persie strike-force would potentially hinder their chances of making a deep run in the Champions League – along with an experience-less Moyes under the helm.
On the other hand, Hernandez can avoid risking his future as a potential squad player and attempt to attain first-team football at another club. The Mexican striker has found it relatively easy to have an impact against the several inferior sides in the Premier League, but it’s uncertain as to whether he can be trusted against Europe’s elite. With Van Persie aging, United can’t afford to rely solely on his goals for a second consecutive season, especially if they intend on claiming silverware this season – which makes Hernandez an asset if the service is available.
In hindsight, Hernandez’ poaching ability and pace is an asset to the Red Devils, but it may be the right time for the Mexican to take on a new challenge – one that’s beneficial for Mexico and provides Chicharito a regular spot in the starting 11.