United Heroes: Javier Hernandez - United's Poacher
A Deadly Poacher
No one in England had ever heard of Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez before he signed for Manchester United in the summer of 2010 from Chivas. Brought to England by the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, the comparisons to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were almost instant. Never really nailing down a regular starting place, Hernandez was nevertheless one of the most crucial cogs in the last few years of Sir Alex's reign.
His ability to be called upon in the toughest of matches, usually when his side was losing, made him absolutely invaluable for United's title hopes. The perfect man to have in your reserves, it was his lightning quick instincts and ability to generate a shot with next to no backlift that gave him the edge over many a Premier League defender.
Chicharito's time at Manchester United epitomised the nature of Sir Alex Ferguson. Frantic finishes, high scoring games and dramatic, title-defining moments personified the unstoppable juggernaut that Ferguson had established, and is maybe the explanation United fans need as to why the Mexican never really hit the ground running with his other managers.
What A Smile Can Produce
Signing for Manchester United at the age of 22 is a dream come true for millions of people around the world, and this was certainly a vibe you got from Hernandez whenever he pulled on a United shirt and stepped onto the pitch. He looked like a player that was just overjoyed to be at the club, and excited to take his enthusiasm with him when he played.
His signing and enthusiasm actually came at a time when things weren't all too positive for United. The sale of Cristiano Ronaldo and failure to reinvest the earnings had resulted in just the acquisitions of Antonio Valencia, Gabriel Obertan and Michael Owen on a free, Carlos Tevez had moved to the now uber-wealthy and increasingly noisy Manchester City and even the much beloved Wayne Rooney had launched an official transfer request.
For United fans, it must have been intoxicating seeing someone coming into the gates of Carrington with a genuine smile on their face. You can't discredit just how much good Hernandez's enthusiasm must have had on Sir Alex and the rest of the United team; people always talk about the impact a new signing can have on a side on the pitch, but off the pitch is just as relevant for the day to day running of a team and is vital for a successful season.
2010/11 - Breakout Year
Sir Matt Busby Award Winner
While it might be everyone's dream, coming to Manchester United at the age of 22 brings a whole load of pressure and expectation, especially when you're stepping into the shoes of the likes of Carlos Tevez.
To then come out of your first season with Manchester United and have a Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year Award to your name is a remarkable achievement. Javier Hernandez was one of the youngest players to ever pick up the award at the end of his debut season in 2011, becoming the first North American to scoop up the award to boot.
His 20 goals in 45 appearances was staggeringly good considering 18 of those appearances had come off the bench. Statistically, he was not only the most clinical player in the club, but the most clinical in the entire country. These stats seem to be forgotten about by most football fans, but they're important in helping to understand just how much potential the Mexican forward truly possessed.
Wayne Rooney would even go as far as to call Chicharito the 'signing of the century' for his role in one of United's most emotional seasons.
Fall From Grace
From Moyes To Mourinho
Like so many United players, Chicharito was hit hard by the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. Not only was there to obvious gulf in quality to content with, but players like Hernandez had lost out on a man who understand his game. The nippy poacher was not a position many managers had utilised that much, least of all the incoming David Moyes.
Sadly for Hernandez, United's disastrous 2013/14 season saw the Mexican shifted from crucial component to bit-part feature, as he was shunted onto the bench and played largely on the wing.
Moyes' departure offered some hope for Hernandez, but it was clear the incoming Louis Van Gaal had very little time for the Mexican. A reasonably successful loan spell with Real Madrid might have presented a glimmer of opportunity for Hernandez, especially when considering the forward flops United endured in the 2014/15 season, but the Mexican's career was effectively finished by one night in Belgium.
In a Champions League qualifier, Hernandez was brought on by Van Gaal for the final twenty-five minutes against an increasingly tired defence. Normally this would be bread and butter for Chicharito, however it was clear this was a mishandled and nervous individual now playing for United. A couple bad misses, a slipped penalty and that infamous look by Louis Van Gaal almost sealed Hernandez's fate there and then.
Since his departure from United, the likes of David De Gea have called Hernandez the 'best finisher at the club' and Jose Mourinho has claimed he would have never sold the Mexican, calling the transfer 'crazy'.
From Leverkusen To London
Since leaving United, Hernandez has done what he's always done best: established himself as a heck of a good goal scorer. Moving initially to Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, the Mexican notched up over seventy appearances in two seasons and found the net an impressive 39 times.
This impressive form brought him back to the attention of the English game, finding himself at West Ham United in 2017. Whilst he's maybe not quite found as much consistency as he might have liked, it's not been helped by the changing managers, tough stadium move and once again over-reliance on employing him in a wider position for the likes of Marko Arnaoutovic to go through the middle.
Hernandez is a very intelligent, very clinical individual who deserves far more recognition than he gets. His contributions on the pitch are always crucial, his work rate is flawless and his attitude both on and off the bench is a manager's dream. United fans should cherish the memories of the little Mexican, because he is one of the few players to have been at the club who truly represented its old and successful traditions.
It's sad in a way that if Chicharito was a typical loud mouth, kicking up a fuss whenever he was outside the starting eleven, he would have probably stood a better chance of still being there now...