By Daniel Walters
Born a mere 17 years ago, I never had the chance to witness the sheer genius of the footballing greats; the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Best, Law and Charlton. However, if there is one thing that I have learned about them, it is that they knew how to put the ball in the back of the net.
Fast forwarding 30 years, there are various players who have totalled up dozens of goals in their careers, simply from having that so-called ‘poachers instinct’. These include current United striker Michael Owen, AC Milan legend Filippo Inzaghi and former United goal machine Ruud van Nistelrooy.
However, it is another current United striker who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as these strikers, and that is my favourite player, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez. The supremely talented Mexican has shot to prominence on the world scene in a matter of months, thanks to his spectacular debut season with my beloved Manchester United.
Signed from Mexican First Division team Guadalajara, for a bargain fee in the region of £7m, Hernandez has made a mockery of Premier League defences in his debut season, leaving defenders with twisted blood.
Blessed with great tactical awareness, Hernandez plays just off the final defender, where he has ample opportunity to utilise his breakneck acceleration. Then, once he is past his man, Chicharito shows unbelievable calmness in one-on-one situations, resulting in only one outcome – a goal.
Hernandez’s knack of scoring important goals has certainly not harmed his growing reputation with the United fans. Sir Alex Ferguson has openly admitted that he envisaged Hernandez to be more of an impact substitute than a first team starter, and this theory was justified by Hernandez scoring priceless winners early on in the season against Valencia and Stoke City.
However, even the most avid fan could have been forgiven for laughing at the idea of the diminutive Mexican ousting record-signing Dimitar Berbatov from the starting line-up by the end of his first campaign.
But, once again, Hernandez proved that he is not to be doubted. By the time of his final appearance of his debut season, he was a permanent fixture in the United first team and indeed played the full 90 minutes of the club’s most important match of the season, the Champions League Final.
Scoring 20 goals in 45 appearances in his debut campaign with United is nothing short of remarkable but Chicharito’s strike rate with his national side, Mexico, is even more sensational. In 25 appearances for ‘El Tri,’ Hernandez has scored 19 goals at a strike rate of 0.72 goals per game.
To put this into context, Chicharito already has nearly half as many goals, in a quarter of the amount of games, as the legendary Raul scored for Spain. Lest we forget, Hernandez originally burst onto the scene at last summer’s World Cup, having already signed for United, scoring two goals, against heavyweights France and Argentina.
Unsurprisingly, it is not just the adoring United fans that have fallen in love with Hernandez and his goal scoring record but also his team-mates, who have been amazed by his sheer determination to succeed. Singing his praises in recent weeks, both Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand have openly tweeted about Chicharito, dubbing him a ‘goal machine’ and the ‘Mexicutioner’.
Impact wise, Hernandez has been compared to United cult-hero, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and it is easy to see why. Both blessed with extraordinary goal scoring records and the ability to strike at vital times, Hernandez has the opportunity to even surpass the heroics of the ‘Baby Faced Assassin.’
Overall, it was Hernandez’s early season contribution which really endowed him to me, transforming him from the intriguingly unknown into an instant sensation and my favourite player. At a time when Wayne Rooney was busy flirting with Manchester City and contemplating abandoning the club (which moulded him into the best striker in the country), Hernandez was the shining light, the constant reminder that there would be a steady flow of goals were the England hitman to leave.
Thankfully, Rooney did no such thing, and has now formed one of the most lethal strike partnerships in Europe, with one of the most lethal strikers in Europe.
However, it is not only Hernandez’s predatory instincts which has made him a firm favourite with every United fan, me included. It is his sheer love for the game and complete and utter delight with which he celebrates every single one of his goals.
Once the ball hits the back of the net, a huge grin is etched across Chicharito’s face, regardless of the quality or importance of the goal. The kid just loves to see the ball hit the back of the net. It was what he was born to do – score goals.
Daniel is a writer for Can They Score, who you can follow on Twitter here.