8th April 2010 was a day of stark contrast in Manchester United history. On the one hand, the Red Devils had been knocked out of the Champions League the day before, as they lost on away goals to Bayern München (a 3-2 win at Old Trafford proved insufficient to overcome a 2-1 loss in Germany). On the other hand, a virtually unknown Mexican striker nicknamed “little pea” was unveiled as a new Manchester United player.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernández Balcázar was signed from Club Deportivo Guadalajara (widely known as “Chivas”), arguably Mexico’s most successful team, for a reported fee of £6million. No question Manchester United’s scouting system did a great job identifying Chicharito as a top striker when nobody knew about him.
Before enrolling the English most successful football club, Chicharito played the World Cup 2012 and helped his nation reaching the last 16 round (they lost 3-1 to Argentina) scoring twice in the process. Chicharito’s rare ability to appear from nowhere and score goals was remarkable in the tournament, but very could have predicted that he would soon become a key player for Manchester United.
On 27th July Chicharito made his debut against a MLS All-Star team and scored after just 18 minutes on the pitch in a match won 5-2 by United. It was just a summer friendly, but it was evident United had signed a special player, a true goal-poacher in the mould of the Reds legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
A bubbly character, the Mexican striker gel admirably well with his new environment (a new country, a new league, a new language… something that is never easy to handle) and enjoyed a highly successful maiden season in England, lifting both the Premier League and the Community Shield and scoring 20 goals in 45 appearances in all competitions, some of which were vital to conquer the 19th domestic league. His awesome performances made him to quickly become a fans-favourite player and also earned him the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year Award.
Chicharito’s second season at Old Trafford was not as brilliant as the first one. However, he managed to score 12 times in 36 appearances, despite having suffered several injuries. The fact of not having had a proper rest during several consecutive summers took its toll, so Sir Alex Ferguson made sure Chicharito would enjoy a well-deserved rest prior to the next beginning of the next season.
That decision prevented him from taking part in the Olympics, a competition finally won by Mexico. Chicharito could have won a gold medal, but he was on United’s pre-season tour instead. Nevertheless, Chicharito never complained, something which speaks volumes about his personality and professionalism. Manchester United fans must appreciate that he is not only an excellent football player; he is also a very unique human being.
Chicharito is now back to his best and doing what he knows best. Despite being only Sir Alex Ferguson’s third choice upfront, behind established world-class players Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, he has found the net 12 times in 22 appearances, including a hat-trick at Villa Park (3-2) and late winners at Stanford Bridge (3-2) and against Newcastle United (4-3) at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
It may not be easy to accommodate all three players in Manchester United’s XI, but there are options: playing Rooney as a “false” left-winger on a standard 4-4-2 formation or playing the, hated in some quarters, diamond with Rooney at the tip.
Javier Hernández’s work-ethic is as good as anyone’s and he is the most natural goal-poacher of the team. In fact, he has scored 12 times so far this season despite his restricted number of minutes on the pitch and could have notched a few more easily if given more game-time. In addition, both Rooney and van Persie feel comfortable playing along with the Mexican striker.
Taking all these factors into consideration, I am in a solid position to affirm that Javier Hernández has done more than enough this season to be part of Manchester United’s starting line-up on a regular basis.