Javier Hernandez, or Chicharito as he’s familiar to many, became the first Mexican player to join Manchester United in July 2010, after joining from C.D. Guadalajara. He enjoyed success at Manchester United, both on an individual and collective scale. His first season in England saw him produce 20 goals in all competitions, and he finished the following two seasons in double figures as well. After falling out of favour with managers David Moyes and most notably Louis van Gaal, Chicharito now plays in the Bundesliga for Bayer Leverkusen, and at the time of writing, he has scored 33 goals in 50 games for the German side.
Not bad for a player that was deemed a ‘super sub’ during his time at Manchester United. It seems as though Chicharito never really fitted in as well as he would have wanted to. No matter how well he played or how many he scored, he could never hold down a first team place, and many United fans, including myself, often wondered why. He seemed the perfect striker- a reliable goal scorer, whether the goals be spectacular or scrappy, he delivered. His movement was second to none, and something that hadn’t graced Old Trafford since the days of Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Hernandez’s predatory instincts were obvious to United fans from the start. There were countless times when the Mexican would come off the bench and score a scrappy tap in, or a header to win United the game and secure all three points.
Hernandez seemed to tick all the boxes to be a regular starter for United, so why wasn’t he? Rio Ferdinand thinks it was because he lacked confidence. In an article from the Daily Mirror, Rio said;
“I think at Manchester United he always felt there was someone else in front of him.
There was a Wayne Rooney, a Robin Van Persie, there were strikers that he felt were always going to be number one no matter what he did.”
Rio even stated the similarities to Diego Forlan’s tenure at the club, another striker that was visibly talented but couldn’t get themselves top of the pecking order and above players such as Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Feeling as though your contribution doesn’t matter would weigh on your mind, and understandably so, maybe that’s why Hernandez’s performances deteriorated towards the end of Sir Alex’s reign at the club, with the Mexican only netting 9 times in 35 games. During that season, Robin van Persie was in inspired form, and almost single-handedly won Sir Alex his final league title. So Hernandez was in pretty fierce competition.
I’ve always thought the true sign of a good striker is being able to score even when you’re not playing well, and I can remember ‘Chicha’ doing that on numerous occasions. His play style is not the type to attract lots of viewing or get fans on the edge of their seats. He’s a poacher, well and truly. I’ve always thought of him in a similar mould to Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, who is down in United folklore for many fans. He was the ‘super sub’ during that famous 1998/99 season, and embraced the tag that Chicharito tried to desperately distance himself from. Solksjaer knew that he had a tough job on his hands displacing either Dwight Yorke or Andy Cole, who had an almost telepathic partnership. So he would be the ‘go-to’ guy. When Fergie needed a goal in ‘Fergie time’, Solksjaer would leave his mark, and I think Sir Alex viewed Hernandez as his modern equivalent. It is by no means a bad reputation to have.
However, Hernandez seemed to talented to settle for a place on the bench. He has tremendous quality and Bayer Leverkusen are reaping the rewards now. By no means will Chicharito go down as a legendary striker for United, up there with the likes of Denis Law, and Eric Cantona, but many fans will remember him with a smile on their face. Perhaps in a different United team he would have been the main man, but it wasn’t to be.