When Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson ‘shelled out’ (if you’ll excuse the pun) the best part of £7 million for a promising – but relatively unknown – then-21-year-old Chivas Guadalajara striker back in July, the jury was out and the uneducated were left to question whether the veteran Scot had been at the Châteauneuf-du-Pape again.
For some, the pricey acquisition of Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez seemed to rest uneasily alongside reports of United’s monumental debts, and the indifference at signing another ‘no name’ with potential was tangible.
However, a series of goalscoring run-outs during Mexico’s brief stint at the World Cup in South Africa went a long way to quelling the anguish surrounding Hernandez’ relatively high transfer fee, as well as fuelling the imaginations of many interested onlookers.
Chicharito wasted no time in getting his United career off to a flying start either.
A sublime lob after coming on against the MLS All-Stars, a goal against his new employers in a specially arranged showpiece friendly with former side Chivas (he switched sides at half-time) and then a well-taken finish against a League of Ireland XI after joining the action at the interval ensured that the ‘little pea’ got his name on the score-sheet in all of his first three pre-season appearances – simultaneously seeing the presiding doubts that were lingering over him quickly beginning to diminish.
Hernandez then scored his first competitive goal for United in his first competitive game, netting in rather fortunate circumstances after once again being introduced as a second-half substitute during the Community Shield game against Chelsea. It may have been a little on the ‘ungainly’ side but, as any striker worth his salt will tell you, they all count the same.
First-string opportunities then became scarce for Hernandez as Ferguson understandably opted to place the first-choice pairing of Wayne Rooney and the rejuvenated Dimitar Berbatov above him in the pecking order when the season began in earnest, but the diminutive Mexican delivered a timely reminder of his pre-season feats by coming off the bench to ensure that United left the Mestalla with three ill-deserved points after their Champions League group match with Valencia last night.
Are you starting to see a pattern emerge?
After Hernandez’ match-winning cameo against Los Che, his teammates were quick to lavish praise upon him, with Sir Alex Ferguson extolling an abnormal amount of eulogic admiration – considering his usually tentative safeguarding of the burgeoning egos of his younger contingent;
“The form of Berbatov has delayed his appearances. Of course, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar were the natural choices at the start of the season, which has meant Javier has not had a lot of football.
But he is young and he is developing his game and doing good work in the gymnasium. He still has work to do in that aspect of his physique but you cannot take away from the fact that he is a fantastic finisher.
The way he took his chance, it was like shelling peas. It was so natural to him.”
Midfielder Darren Fletcher also chose to echo his manager’s sentiments, adding that he believes there is much more to come from Hernandez after seeing him operate at such close quarters;
“Javier got his head down and finished [his goal against Valencia] fantastically. He showed he is going to be a great player for Manchester United.
He is young and still getting used to the way we play, but he has come in from Mexico and is a real talent.”
With the adrenalin of his last-gasp winner still coursing through his veins, Hernandez himself was conscious about the significance of his contributions during a post-match interview;
“It was a great night. I am so happy about the goal but also it was important to get the win and the three points.
I always used to watch the Champions League when I was back home in Mexico. It is one of the most important tournaments in the world, so I was always keeping up with it.
The goal will give me so much confidence. I am only at the start of my career with United and to score so early in the Champions League is a big boost.
It is great to be a Manchester United player and I want that to continue for a long time.”
And why the hell shouldn’t that be the case? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, despite his undeniable footballing talent, entered the United annals as somewhat of a cult hero for his perpetual ‘super sub’ routine.
It is highly likely that he isn’t going to be trusted with a first-team berth in the near future given the options that Ferguson already has at his disposal, so Hernandez would be a fool to snub a lot akin to Solskjaer’s (who remained as ultra-reliable back up to Andy Cole, Eric Cantona and Teddy Sheringham for the majority of his time at Old Trafford),given the ovations that the Norwegian legend still receives at every turn.
‘Legend’ being the pertinent word.