Javier Hernandez’s Manchester United career hasn’t exactly panned out the way he would have envisioned when he first came to England. Having donned the role of super sub in his initial years, Hernandez failed to nail down a starting spot and indeed it looked like his time as a red had come to a close with Van Gaal’s arrival. After a loan spell at Real Madrid, Hernandez is back at his parent club and could very well stay there for the upcoming season. Aalim Khaderi looks at the various options the Mexican International has.
When a Manchester United fan thinks, retrospectively, of United’s 19th title in the 2010-11 season, many will remember Sir Alex Ferguson’s tactical masterstrokes, Wayne Rooney’s title clinching penalty, or Paul Scholes’s first retirement from football. However, it seems one player’s great contributions have been forgotten. This player, a striker by trade, played arguably as pivotal a role, if not more so than Rooney or top scorer Dimitar Berbatov played in the record breaking season of 2011. His name? Javier Hernandez.
Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the greatest managers to ever grace the game, spotted talent in the young forward and brought him to Manchester. In Hernandez’s second season at the club, Wayne Rooney was unsettled at the club prompting Dimitar Berbatov to take up a leading role. Berbatov plundered in goal after goal, including an incredible haul of 5 goals in a single game against Blackburn. After a significant portion of the season, Ferguson made the decision to drop Berbatov from the first team altogether, even leaving him out of the squad for the Champions League final. His replacement was Chicharito. This move proved to be very fruitful as Hernandez’s incisive movement always gave his teammates an option in behind and more often than not, led to goals.
These days, Hernandez is no longer renowned for his predatory instincts. A not so fruitful loan move to Real Madrid was illogical in the first place and starved him of much needed playing time. He is no longer wanted by many of the elite clubs in Europe. Instead an MLS club is in the running to sign him.
Truth be told, I do not believe the Mexican striker deserves this. For one, there was no reason for Louis Van Gaal to offload Hernandez at the beginning of last season. Any Manchester United fan will tell you that the squad lacked a quick forward who could get in behind. Robin Van Persie’s legs had gone, Radamel Falcao seemed a shadow of his former self, and Wayne Rooney often played out of position. Hernandez may not be as naturally talented as this trio, but he possesses a skill none of them currently have.
This key difference has to do with the creativity of his movement. Think Football’s Greg Worden pointed out how Hernandez has creativity in his runs. He can come short, find space down the channels, or make runs through the center in behind. With Van Gaal lacking a striker in Chicharito’s mould, it is incredible that he would cast Hernandez aside so swiftly as he did last summer.
Javier Hernandez’s loan to Madrid may not have yielded first team minutes. However, it also proved his status as a top draw forward. Hernandez was competing with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, and Karim Benzema for minutes upfront. When Benzema was injured, Hernandez stepped up and delivered scoring 8 goals from only 11 starts, most notably his winner against Atletico Madrid. This illustrated The Little Pea’s predatory skill. His goal conversion rates have always been one of the best but clubs still underestimate his talent.
So what are Chicharito’s options now? Well, he could join a club in the MLS. Financially, this would make perfect sense as he would no doubt earn a massive contract. But seeing the Mexican’s hunger and desire to play for the Galacticos, this seems far from likely. Another avenue would be Italy’s Serie A. Hernandez would likely be able to join a Champions League club there at the very least. Juventus could be a great option as they have proven their European pedigree but once again there would be no guarantee of playing time.
We now come to the most obvious option: the Premier League. Rumours have linked Hernandez with a move to Anfield which would most likely not go down well with Manchester United fans. Would this be a realistic option? Well, Liverpool lost Luis Suarez last summer and as of now, they have failed to bring in adequate replacements for him. The Mario Balotelli experiment failed and Rickie Lambert’s fairytale move to Liverpool has soured. The Reds did bring in Danny Ings this summer but he is still unproven at a big club. All three of these players combined still do not replace the hole Suarez’s departure has left and, frankly, such a feat might not even be possible.
Javier Hernandez is no Luis Suarez, but unlike all of the strikers Brendan Rodgers has at the club, he guarantees goals. At every club Hernandez has competed at, he has had admirable goal conversion rates and he would be a welcome addition to Liverpool. Not only would Liverpool benefit, but Chicharito would as well. It is vital for a player at his age to play in a demanding league and have other top class players around you. Philippe Coutinho is a player who can spot gaps between defenses and he and Javier would be a perfect match. Match time would likely not be a problem at Anfield either, with Danny Ings being the best competition the Mexican would have to face. However, such a move looks increasingly unlikely with Christian Benteke allegedly close to a move to Liverpool.
Finally we arrive at where I believe Hernandez should really be playing his football, Manchester United. From a current standpoint, United’s strike force is heavily depleted right now and in turn, Van Gaal has launched a search for a new, prolific forward. What he doesn’t realize is that he has just that with Chicharito. As mentioned previously in this article, Hernandez has a skillset that none of the United forwards possess. It seems that Manchester United’s biggest targets are Edinson Cavani and Robert Lewandowski but this would leave United with no pace up top. There needs to be a variety of attacking options, especially in a possession based 4-3-3. If no one is running in behind, the midfielders will continue recycling the ball from side to side, accomplishing little to nothing. Why sign two target-man-esque forwards when you have the missing piece of the puzzle right under your nose?
As Javier Hernandez sits out injured following the Copa America, uncertainty surrounds the player over where he will play next season. The cloud over the Mexican’s future puts Chicharito’s career in the balance and it is quite ironic that the club that need him most are the most eager to move him on.
Written by Aalim Khaderi