The Last Poacher
Despite a lively start to his Old Trafford career, Javier Hernández has seen his playing time diminish since a young Danny Welbeck made the step up to first team and Sir Alex hit the transfer lottery with Robin van Persie. Now, with Wayne Rooney staying put at Old Trafford and Shinji Kagawa close to the first XI when fit, the competition for places is very high up front.
MUFC Class Of 2013: End of Term Report: Forwards.
Despite the arrival of Robin van Persie in the summer, United only managed to muster a meagre 86 goals this season, 3 less than last time around. In reality, this was probably more attributable to the limited contribution from the wings this season because, in reality, it was a fairly positive season for the forwards. Whilst the defence did it’s best to throw away the title within the first few months – as the odds on Unibet suggested at the time – the forwards did enough up front to compensate for the kamikaze attitude on display elsewhere.
Following on from the defence and midfield reports, this report assesses how well everyone actually performed in comparison to their expected performance at the start of August. It is not a quantified ranking of individual ability, as most typical season reviews are:
Ramires Strike Gives Reds the Blues – United 2 Chelsea 2
What started as a dominant performance at the theatre of dreams soon turned into a nightmare as Chelsea tore up the script to force a sixth-round replay.
Two early goals stunned the visitors but United crumbled in the second half. Losing Nani to injury, getting outnumbered in the middle and failing to play defensive football cost the Red Devils smooth passage to the Semi-Finals.
Chicharito Deserves To Be A Regular Manchester United Starter
8th April 2010 was a day of stark contrast in Manchester United’s history. On the one hand, the Red Devils had just been knocked out of the Champions League the day after losing on away goals to Bayern München (a 3-2 win at Old Trafford proved insufficient to overcome a 2-1 loss in Germany) and on the other hand a virtually unknown Mexican striker, nicknamed “little pea,” was unveiled as a new Manchester United player.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernández Balcázar was signed from Club Deportivo Guadalajara (widely known as “Chivas”), arguably Mexico’s most successful team, for a reported fee of £6 million. At the time, he was unknown Mexican whose signing didn’t garner too much attention but in the years since there is no question that United’s scouts did a great job in plucking Chicharito from relative European obscurity.
The Summer of Javier Hernandez
In the summer of 2011, Mexico won the Gold Cup, CONCACAF’s biennial tournament, featuring nations from North and Central America and the Caribbean. Mexico won the tournament on the back of exciting attacking play from some very promising youngsters. Among them were Gio dos Santos, who scored a magnificent goal in the final against the United States, Andres Guardado, Efrain Juarez, Pablo Barrera, and one Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Hernandez finished as the tournament’s top scorer, cementing his place as Mexico’s first-choice forward, capping an impressive year of goals that began against France in the World Cup and continued with Manchester United during the 2010-2011 season.
Having ended one month before the Gold Cup, Hernandez’s inaugural season with the Red Devils had been wonderfully scripted. The goals rained in for the Mexican forward, and his performances led to the downfall of Dimitar Berbatov, then the club’s leading scorer, culminating in the Bulgarian’s absence from the team sheet in that year’s Champions League final.
In stark contrast to his first season, Hernandez’s sophomore year with United lacked excitement- and optimism. Simply put, he could not find the back of the net. His overall play looked novice, cheap, and perhaps best suited for Sunday league play rather than the Premier League.
Danny Welbeck, resigned to the bench and on-loan in previous years suddenly looked like he would be the one replacing Berbatov alongside Wayne Rooney as United’s first choice attacking duo. Welbeck’s hold up play and seemingly telepathic understanding with Rooney only highlighted the weaknesses in Hernandez’s play.
Football is a game of “form”- those in form play over those out of form. Hernandez certainly looked like he’d lost his, and many wondered whether he’d be able to find it. During the 2012 summer transfer window, Sir Alex Ferguson brought Robin van Persie to the club, confirming what many already thought they knew: Hernandez was not to be relied upon to score goals at the rate he once could.
At the start of the 2012-2013 season, just over 3 months ago, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team looked like it would have room for only one true striker as the team would most likely play 4-2-3-1. That striker would seemingly be van Persie, and the subsequent performances he turned in (see: a lot of goals), confirmed as much.
Lost amidst the excitement of the transfer window, in which the Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa also joined the club, an observation from Sir Alex: “I think this season we’ll see a better Chicharito.” With this statement, Sir Alex both acknowledged Hernandez’s sophomore slump, and the effect that a summer of rest would have on the forward. “”For the last four or five years he’s played all through the summer. This year, with the co-operation of Mexico, he’s had a proper rest.” Could it be? How tired could he be? How much could one summer of rest benefit a young player like Hernandez?
The answers to these questions have been coming for a few weeks now, as Hernandez’s strike-rate reminds us of the glory days of his first magic season at the club. As eyebrows raised, concerned with whether United relied too heavily on van Persie, Hernandez brought them back down with intelligent performances against Chelsea in the Premier League and important goals in the Champions League. Today, against Aston Villa, he came on at the break and did what Messieurs van Persie, Rooney, and Young and Valencia couldn’t do- score.
But it’s so much more than that. His ability to move around the box and draw defenders who had previously looked like Maldini and Baresi out of position has no equal. Ron Vlaar, the Villa captain, had marshalled his defense to near perfection prior to Hernandez being bought on. The Little Pea’s intelligent movement, which took him to the wing, into the box, and saw him come deep into midfield left Villa’s defenders somewhere near lobotomized. Indeed, even Antonio Valencia began to run at and beat his marker, perhaps reminded by Chicharito that these were, after all, just men.
The goals were three, no matter what the dubiously named “Dubious Goals” panel says. The first a goal only he could score: the control awkward, almost comical; the defender hounding him, perhaps too closely; the keeper in excellent position to snuff out the threat. And the ball? Back of the net. The second? A volley, hit with conviction, glanced off a member of the Villa rearguard, leaving the defender with negative time to react. The defender? The aforementioned Maldin- excuse me, Vlaar. The third? A goal we’ve seen him score time and again. Never mind the execution. Never mind the intelligence in positioning and the perfect placement. This goal was a winner. Was it a header? Was it a tap-in? It was a winner.
Looking back on Sir Alex Ferguson’s comments, a summer of rest may just have been what Hernandez needed. He simply looks a sharper, stronger, better version of Chicharito mK I.
Berbatov Was Cantona-lite, Not Cantona-esque
This summer will see the departure from Old Trafford of an iconic player who has broken several records on his way to becoming one of the most recognisable names in world football.
Yet this parting will gain only a fraction of the column-space and media attention that was afforded to Carlos Tevez, Eden Hazard, Wesley Sneijder and Fernando Torres, to name but four.
Cast your mind back four years; Man United had conquered Europe, complementing their re-found dominance of the domestic game. Cristiano Ronaldo had blossomed into one of the game’s greats, Wayne Rooney was demonstrating the perfect blend of quality and determination required to join him, and they were complemented by a cast of stars which included Hargreaves, Tevez, Ferdinand and Vidic, all helping establish United as the number one team on the planet.
Yet there was still something missing; that player who was unpredictably brilliant, who could win matches with unfathomable pieces of skill and mastery. Perhaps there was a desire to finally fill the void left by Eric Cantona from a decade previously. It was a maverick, a nonconformist who deviated from the blandness and uniformity of the modern day footballer, who Sir Alex longed for. United thought they had found that player at the eleventh hour, minutes before that summer’s transfer window slammed shut.
From an outsider’s point of view, it may have seemed somewhat peculiar that Ferguson plummeted to splash over £30 million on Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov. The wiley old Scot had arguably the most distinguished counter-attacking team in living memory at his disposal, yet he opted for the languid and often apathetic-looking Bulgarian.
Stat Attack: Rooney’s Revival Rattles Chelsea
Wayne Rooney scored two penalty kicks as Manchester United fought back from a 3-0 second half deficit to rescue a dramatic point from Stamford Bridge.
Manchester United looked dead-and-buried 5 minutes into the second half when David Luiz’s header was deflected into his own net by Rio Ferdinand, to give Chelsea a 3-0 lead.
My Favourite Footballer… Javier Hernandez
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.