Among the various sources of excitement set to accompany Louis Van Gaal to Manchester United, a possible return to attacking football is arguably what excites United fans the most.
Having witness their team serve up turgid, dire, football throughout David Moyes’ ill-fated spell at Old Trafford, United fans can now look forward to welcome at the club a manager who encourages attacking verve and makes proactive tactics a pillar of his footballing philosophy.
It is then somewhat ironic that one of Van Gaal’s first decisions at United could well be to terminate Javier Hernandez’s career at the club. The Mexican suffered perhaps more than any other striker under Moyes, managing just nine goals in 35 appearances in all competitions.
Hernandez suffered under Moyes as United’s lack of creativity up-front, coupled with the Scotsman’s insistence to adopt a static 4-4-2, left him feeding off scraps. The situation didn’t get any rosier when Moyes opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation as Hernandez’s poor first touch, which had somewhat improved in Fergie’s last season, constantly let him down.
Van Gaal’s affection for versatile, ball playing strikers, rather than poachers, doesn’t bode well for Hernandez and although the Dutchman has vowed to give him the opportunity to prove himself, there are serious doubts the Mexican has a future at the club.
At Ajax and Barcelona, where Van Gaal adopted his preferred 4-3-3, the attacking duties were shared by a striker capable of sustaining the physical impact of the game, Patrick Kluivert, surrounded by quick and technically gifted players such as Marc Overmars and Jari Litmanen.
During his two seasons at Bayern Munich, Van Gaal veered away from 4-3-3 to deploy a 3-3-1-3 formation where Miroslav Klose was flanked by Thomas Mueller and Arjen Robben. Despite having scored 38 Bundesliga goals in the previous two seasons, Luca Toni lost his spot in the starting XI as Van Gaal did not deem him dynamic enough for his style of football and he ended up leaving the club after falling out with the Dutch manager.
Hernandez’s return of four goals in 24 Premier League matches last year, his worst league goal tally since joining the club ahead of the 2010/11 season, stemmed from a clear lack of confidence and first team opportunities. It provided a striking contrast to the form the Mexican had enjoyed in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season when Hernandez netted ten times in 22 Premier League appearances.
The Mexican’s ability to find space inside the box and his knack for being in the right place at the right time proved crucial to United’s title cavalcades in the 2010/11 and 2012/13 seasons and particularly during Fergie’s last 12 months in charge, the 26-year-old looked to have refined aspects of his game but last season saw an unexpected and seemingly irreversible regress.
Ahead of their group game against Brazil, Mexico coach, Miguel Herrera, blamed Moyes for Hernandez’s poor form.
“Chicharito had a difficult year because he had a different coach to the one that brought him to the club,” Herrera said.
“That coach [Sir Alex Ferguson] left and he had another one [Moyes]. But he has an impressive market in Europe and I believe he has huge possibilities to be part of another team, being one of the starting players.”
Little did he know than his compatriot might soon follow Moyes through Old Trafford’s exit door.