Last week the nominees for the PFA Young Player of the Year were announced. That list includes such names as Jack Wilshere, Seamus Coleman, Joe Hart, and Gareth Bale. This list sparked quite a debate on the EPL Talk website as every fan has an opinion on who should win. But while all those players are certainly worthy, the player that most deserves this award is Javier Hernandez.
Looking back to the beginning of the season, Chicharito was a relative unknown to the football world outside of Mexico. He performed well during the World Cup, but there were very little expectations for him at Old Trafford during his initial season. Not only has he exceeded those meager expectations; Hernandez has become a vital goal scoring cog in the Red Devil championship run.
To me, this is where Chicharito’s candidacy separates from the rest of those nominated. Off the pitch, Hernandez has had to face many hurdles that the others have not. First, he is playing thousands of miles away from home for the first time in his career. Along with that, he has had to face a different culture, language, and food, all those things that a person has to confront when living in a new country. There have been countless of other young players that have wilted in the face of such obstacles. On the pitch, Chicharito has had to adjust to a drastic change in style of play than what he has been use to. It is fair to say that the physicality and speed of the Premiere League is a night and day difference to what he faced when playing for Guadalajara in the Mexican League.
Even while facing those challenges, Hernandez has played extremely well for United. During the early part of the season when Wayne Rooney struggled, Chicharito provided a scoring spark that allowed the Red Devils to go undefeated in the Premiere League through January. Hernandez’s pace forces other teams to prepare differently for United than in previous seasons. Once back into form, Hernandez’s goal poaching ability allowed Rooney to be utilized as facilitator and playmaker.
The knock on Hernandez is that he has not put in the minutes that footballers like Wilshere and Hart have. While it is true Hernandez did not get much playing time early in the season, a lot of that has to be attributed to the system that Alex Ferguson employs. Ferguson often will ease a younger player, especially one in his first season, into the rigors of the English football season. Also, with Ferguson’s ever changing line-ups, outside of veterans like Vidic and Evra, there aren’t many players that see their names regularly on the squad sheet. More importantly, what says more about a player’s value to a team’s success? The amount of playing time that he gets early in a season or how much time he gets at the end of the season when the matches matter the most? This is important to keep in mind as Hernandez has found himself playing major minutes in matches against Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool in the last months of the Premiere League season.
Again, all the players nominated for Young PFA are excellent choices. Hart has played in goal for a top four club. Wilshere has been indispensable for a strong Arsenal squad. But to me, Chicharito has provided a valuable scoring punch for a championship side while overcoming many hurdles that the rest of the candidates have not.