After a stuttering start to his campaign with Manchester United, the international break should have offered some welcome relief for Javier Hernandez.
But anyone who has followed Mexico’s most recent qualifying campaign will have known this to be unlikely, as El Tri have been nothing short of atrocious as of late. They can still qualify (somehow) for Brazil 2014 via a playoff, but that was no thanks to Hernandez, who is usually a talismanic figure for his country. The United star missed an open goal from six yards out (below), and his frustration was further compounded after picking up a caution that will see him suspended for the first leg of the crucial World Cup playoff.
Chicharito is out of form, no doubt. And with Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck currently more favorable forward options in the eyes of club manager David Moyes, opportunities to play himself out of this rut look as though they’ll be few and far between in the short term.
The Mexican is a popular figure at Old Trafford and his passion for United is unashamedly obvious. But at this juncture, Hernandez’s best option is to seek pastures new.
Chicharito suspended on yellows for 1st leg vs New Zealand–might be addition by subtraction at this point.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) October 16, 2013
It is a shame really, because on arrival in England, Hernandez looked like he was set to shine at United for years to come.
Many predicted the sleight, untried and inexperienced signing from Chivas Guadalajara would take at least one campaign to become acclimatised to the Premier League. But he impressed straight away, and performed to a level far beyond what was initially expected. He formed a superb partnership with Wayne Rooney in the latter stages of his maiden campaign and played himself into the United first XI for the 2011 Champions League final. He scored twenty goals for the club in his first season.
Naturally, expectations were that he would build on a fine debut year, but his star has since faded. An injury blemished the start to his second campaign, and the Mexican struggled to oust Danny Welbeck from the side after United started 2011/12 in red-hot form. He’s never quite been able to establish himself back in the side since then.
He has excelled coming off the bench as of late – only Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has scored more goals as a substitute for United – but no player wants to be branded a ‘super-sub’ or perhaps even worse, an ‘impact player’. Goalscorers like Hernandez want to be on the pitch as much as possible, sticking the ball in the back of the net.
And there’s no doubt he can do that. His movement in attacking areas is incisive, intelligent and supremely quickly, whilst his finishing is always clever and composed. He’s comfortable on either foot and uncannily good in the air too. If David Moyes did see fit to play him, he would certainly score goals for United. And lot’s of them. His United record to date stands at a pretty impressive 51 goals in 121 appearances — 14 of which have come as a substitute.
But Moyes has never liked strikers in the Hernandez mould. The former Everton boss has always preferred forwards who offer a physical presence or persistent injury in favour of what you might call natural goalscorers. And whilst Chicharito will give you goals, he doesn’t give you much else. He is a poacher, but one-dimensional when you consider his game as a whole.
That won’t wash with Moyes, and Hernandez looks likely to remain at the bottom of the pecking order for the immediate future. United will play one out-and-out striker and one second striker for the vast majority of this campaign. Within the confines of that system Van Persie and Welbeck are the first choice number nines, whereas Rooney and Kagawa will be the two preferred options to play in behind.
Would United consider moving him on? Whilst Chicharito may not be Moyes’s cup of tea, he certainly offers something different to any of United’s current forwards. Plus, there is that old adage: any top side needs four quality strikers.
United have that, but if all four are expecting to feature on a regular basis in a system that utilises one proper striker, those left out will quickly become disillusioned. The comments above suggest it is already happening. You need a suitable blend of experienced and promising players, as well as those at the peak of their powers to maintain ambience within the squad and an appreciation of positional hierarchy.
Hernandez is no longer an untried youngster looking to find his way in the Premier League. He is 25 years old and an established goalscorer in one of the toughest domestic competitions on the planet. The bottom line is, Chicharito needs to be starting games for the sake of his own development and the furtherance of his own career.
Factor in a potential World Cup at the end of the campaign – for which if Mexico qualify Hernandez will be a key player – and the need for regular first team football becomes increasingly paramount. If he does become available, there certainly won’t be a shortage of clubs looking for a goalscorer of his calibre.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball