The art of being a striker is, of course, largely about scoring goals or at least, setting them up for someone else.
However, that is achieved in many different ways. Some strikers are battering rams, some are more creative types but Javier Hernandez must currently rank as one of the best when it comes to spacial awareness and movement
It’s rare that a player can entertain as much off the ball as on it but if you watch the little Mexican when a team-mate is in possession it is quite a remarkable sight and massively entertaining.
He is the very definition of footballing perpetual motion, constantly on the move into space, darting forward and back, pulling defenders out of position.
His art evokes the great Gerd Muller, the West German striker in the 70s who rarely scored from more than four yards but who was a master at finding space where previously no space had been.
He must be a nightmare to mark, a streak of quicksilver, who is never where he was a second previously. To see him dart into the box, pursued by a defender, only to then pull up short and cut back at a right angle, is to see a totally instinctive footballer at work.
But it doesn’t stop there. given the chance in front of goal, he is sharp and clinical. His ratio of goals to shots is really impressive and reveals a player not just with great technique but great composure in front of goal.
Last night two goals, while apparently both simple tap-ins, were the product of great positional work beforehand. It’s a testament to his talent that he so often seems to find himself in front of goal, apparently unmarked. This may be bad defending but more often it is the result of his off-the-ball running.
To watch him is to realize just how lacking many strikers are when it comes to carving out space and time for them to penetrate a defence. Too many just wait for it to land at their feet. Not Little Pea. If he’s not finding space for himself, he’s dragging defenders out of position to create opportunities for a team mate.
His play shows that hard running work need not be the preserve of the meathead or the work horse; it can be part of a highly educated skilled game too when done with the intelligence and guile that Hernandez achieves.
At an estimated eight million pounds, he’s been fantastic value and seems destined to a be a United legend in the mold of Ole Gunner Solskjaer and is a 90 minutes master class in the art of guile and striking artistry.
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