The following is a column, representing the ideas and opinions of a Premiership Talk columnist. It in no way reflects the opinions of Premiership Talk. Readers are invited to share their own thoughts in the comments section following the column.
Manchester United fans have a lot to be excited about this season. Sure, the Red Devils are coming off an extremely disappointing result after their 2-2 draw with Fulham this weekend, but on the upside Sir Alex Ferguson will have learned a lot from his side’s poor performance. In particular, the performance – or lack thereof – of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez sent a clear message to United fans: the Mexican honeymoon is over.
Javier Hernandez’s journey to Old Trafford is an inspiring tale. The young Mexican striker comes from a footballing family, and he followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps by becoming a Chivas star back in Guadalajara, and after signing a deal with Manchester United last season he impressed the entire globe with a string of great performances in the World Cup. He couldn’t stop scoring in preseason for his new club, and in his official debut – the Community Shield against Chelsea – he scored a goal that was as fortunate as his rapid rise to stardom.
Nonetheless, two games into the Premier League season he’s still trying to get to grips with the world’s greatest league. In no way do I intend to knock the 22 year old; in fact, I’ve been impressed with the start of his United career. I do, however, believe that the Fulham match ended the dream start and knocked Hernandez back to step one. After a physical, hard fought battle, Chicharito and his supporters now see that despite all of the goals there is still a lot of work to be done.
Before I get criticized for dismissing a player after only two Premier League games (neither of which he played the whole match), I just want to point out that instead I am cautioning the people who have built him up on a pedestal. Having obtained an appreciation for his upbringing, I understand that if there’s anyone that is willing to work hard it’s him, and I’m positive he will avoid complacency at all costs and will keep his head down and his spirits up. I do, however, believe that at the moment he is out of his element, and this season could be far too soon to expect him to make a big impact (yes, I mean he’ll play less of a part than Federico Macheda in his debut season).
Now, Sir Alex and his coaching staff need to take a good look at their new signing and come to terms with his real strengths. The Fulham match went a long way towards showing his weaknesses. At one point it looked as if the Mexican bounced off of Cottagers defender Paul Konchesky, highlighting his lack of strength and size. Lacking these attributes doesn’t automatically resign Chicharito to failure in the Premier League – just ask players such as Paul Scholes and Aaron Lennon about that. Instead, these players have other attributes to cope with their weaknesses; Scholes has a cannon of a shot and a rough tackle while Lennon uses his pace to take defenders on.
On Sunday Chicharito played to none of his strengths, and if he doesn’t figure it out then I do fear that his Old Trafford career could replicate the tenures of strikers such as Dong Fangzhou and Manucho (he clearly has more class, but if he doesn’t utilize his strong points then he’ll be just as effective). As a diminutive striker, Hernandez needs to be facing defenders, not playing with his back to goal as he did against Fulham. His strong points are his pace and runs, but by dropping back it left him playing a hold-up role with Dimitar Berbatov the target man. The problem with this is that the Bulgarian is not fast enough to be a target man; instead he would have been better suited to the role that his strike partner was playing against Fulham.
At the end of the day, luckily for Javier, the Fulham match can go down as a learning experience. To conclude this column, I just want to stress that Javier Hernandez is nowhere near the finished product. He’ll have to figure out a way to play to his strengths against some of the best players in the world, and until then he’ll find the goals hard to come by at Manchester United. Unfortunately for him, at a club as big as the Red Devils the learning curve is steep, and he’ll need to figure things out quickly to avoid a fate similar to that of Giuseppe Rossi, a player very similar to the Mexican.
For Javier Hernandez, who couldn’t stop scoring, the honeymoon is over. Now begins the hard work.