Home » Assessing Javier Hernandez’s role at Manchester United next season

Assessing Javier Hernandez’s role at Manchester United next season

by Sam Peoples

With Louis van Gaal confirming that Javier Hernandez will be given another chance to prove himself at Manchester United, a potential departure for the Mexican does not now seem so certain after all.

A permanent exit had looked on the cards ever since leaving for Real Madrid last summer, with ‘Chicharito’ not impressing many Man United fans with some of his comments whilst in Spain.

It seemed clear early on in his time with Real Madrid that he would not make a permanent move there. After all, the Mexican was nothing more than a back-up in the Spanish capital, having made 21 of his 33 appearances from the bench.

Chicharito had been frustrated by limited opportunities in 2013/14 season under David Moyes and the Mexican made similar complaints about his time with Real Madrid last season, although we’re not quite sure whether he genuinely expected it to be any different in Spain and if he did, then he was very naive.

Ultimately though, Chicharito has been sporadically used by both Man United and Real Madrid in the last few seasons because of his limited abilities as a player. Whilst often clinical in front of goal, the Mexican is more of a penalty-box player and rarely contributes to attacking build-up play.

It is unsurprising then that past United strikers such as Danny Welbeck, Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao have all been preferred to Hernandez. That the situation repeated itself with Real Madrid, as Karim Benzema played as the main striker, was no coincidence.

However, despite branding Van Gaal as ‘very strict’ and suggesting managerial counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson was ‘more liberal’ than the Dutchman, there might yet be a surprising role for him at United this season.

Should he stay at Old Trafford, Chicharito’s main contender for a starting spot will be Wayne Rooney (unless another striker is signed as well, then he’ll be pushed further down the pecking order).

The Man United captain spoke earlier this year of how his role as a striker has changed under Van Gaal, citing greater positional discipline and less touches of the ball.

“I think it’s a more disciplined role,” Rooney said.

“The manager, actually, when he spoke to me about how he wants me to play up front he went back to when he was manager of Bayern Munich and the striker there was averaging ten touches a game. I was like ‘bloody hell, I want more than that’.

“I can’t remember who the striker was but then he said he was scoring two goals a game, so I was like ‘that’s no pressure then, two goals in ten touches’.”

Indeed, Rooney made only 35 touches in April’s 4-2 win over Manchester City which was the joint lowest he has ever made in a Premier League game. It’s not quite the ten touches he had referred to but United ran out winners on the day, so whatever he did helped the team.

In contrast, that could be a role well suited to Hernandez. Although Rooney will be the team’s main central striker this season, the Mexican forward could prove to be a good back-up in this system.

Whilst there may be some weaknesses in his game in terms of technique, Chicharito could still play a disciplined role in attack, courtesy of his energy rather than ability on the ball.

Chicharito was briefly compared to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, especially during the 2012-13 season as he was so dangerous when coming from the bench. If the Mexican can re-kindle that form, then he’d be a great asset for Van Gaal to have but it’s a case of whether that Chicharito is gone forever.

He won’t be first choice but with United set to play more games this season – a minimum of 48 in all competitions – there will be more opportunities for Chicharito in the striker’s position. His cause will also be aided by the departures of Van Persie and Falcao, so there will be not such great competition in that department.

A new striker might be the preferred option of many but Chicharito could be a viable option as at least a second choice striker or when playing against lower-quality opposition.

As long as Hernandez is prepared to accept not being the main forward for United, hope may remain that he can hit the heights of his debut season with the club once again.

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