When Sir Alex Ferguson agreed to sign then unknown Mexican forward Javier Hernandez in the spring of 2010, you could hardly blame some of the United faithful for having their doubts. Untested in the Premier League, only 21 years old and was relatively unheard of. However the little Mexican turned out to be a real clever piece of business by Sir Alex Ferguson, as Hernandez aka Chicharito, went on to play a key role in the clubs historic 19th and 20th Premier League title winning campaigns.
Going into the 2010 World Cup, quite honestly we didn’t know what to expect from Hernandez. Yes we had seen glimpse of him on YouTube, but this would be our first real chance to actually see him up close and live and what better occasion to show your talent than the biggest stage of all, the World Cup. What was to follow exceeded even some of the most optimistic United supporters expectations as Hernandez showed us exactly why Sir Alex had brought him to the club. His finishing for a player so relatively young wasn’t just good, it was outstanding.
It didn’t take long for Hernandez to get off the mark, as he opened up his United account against Chelsea in the Community Shield at Wembley albeit in rather unusual circumstances, as his shot deflected off his face and into the back of the net. He then followed that up, by netting the all important winner against Valencia in Europe with a superb finish into the bottom corner. Goals then continued to flow against West Brom and Stoke City where he again grabbed the headlines scoring an outrageous backwards header.
It wouldn’t be till early Spring where Hernandez would finally find himself a regular starting place in the Manchester United team ,taking the place of then top scorer Dimitar Berbatov in the side. Doubts at the time were raised given Berbatov was having such a fine season, however Sir Alex’s reasoning for choosing the Mexican over the Bulgarian was more than justified as the forward went on to score crucial goals for the club, from scoring the all important winner at home to Everton, to netting the opener against Chelsea at Old Trafford in May inside the opening minute, as United closed in on another League Title. When the big occasions came calling, Hernandez didn’t go missing, he delivered.
His efforts on the field were rewarded, as Chicartio was named in the running for the PFA Young players of the year award, and was even named in the starting eleven in the European Cup Final against Barcelona. His 20 goals that season made him the first player since Ruud Van Nistelrooy to score 20 goals in a debut season for the club.
His knack of popping up at the right time in the box was becoming a real trade mark for the Mexican. , if you had to pick one player, who you would want the ball to fall to in the box It would be Hernandez. Yes he may not have been technically that great of a player, in fact technically he was awful! but when it came to putting the ball into the back of the net he was sensational, there were few better. It would only be a crying shame that his career faded away here like it did under the reigns of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal.
The following seasons may not have quite hit the heights of his debut campaign ,but his contribution was just as important never the less. Despite narrowly missing out on the Premier League title from arch rivals Manchester City, Hernandez still found himself in amongst the goals scoring 12 in all, popping up when United needed him most, with in particular the stand out moment coming against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge where he headed the ball in from close range rescuing a point for United in a 3-3 draw.
With the introduction of Robin Van Persie in the summer of 2012, it made first team opportunities for the Mexican hard to come by with more often than not finding himself sitting on the substitutes bench, rather than actually starting games from the off. Despite not starting week in week out, Hernandez sill managed to score a mighty impressive 18 goals in all competitions. including winners against the likes of Newcastle United and Chelsea as United steamed their way to a record breaking 20th League Title.
The introduction of David Moyes for the 2013/14 campaign, began not only the start of the strikers downfall at the club, but brought the start of the wholes club’s downfall too. Despite suffering a somewhat nightmare season, the Mexican still managed 9 goals in all competitions. The following campaign under new management in Louis Van Gaal, seen the forward sent on loan to Real Madrid for the remainder of the season before it was finally announced last summer that he would be joining Bayern Leverkusen on a permanent deal.
He may not have been a great, he may not even be remembered by some supporters in years to come, but his contribution to the club should never go unnoticed.