In our latest instalment of the Flashback series, we take a look back at a certain moment and look at how things might have changed those initial reactions.
Manchester United’s bid for a fourth successive Premier League title fell just short in 2009/10, although Wayne Rooney certainly couldn’t be blamed after netting 34 goals that season.
The other strikers at Old Trafford weren’t nearly as prolific, though, with Dimitar Berbatov the next-highest scorer with 12 goals and Michael Owen narrowly trailing him with nine. [via TransferMarkt]
In 2010, Sir Alex Ferguson looked beyond Europe for another striker to bring to the club and hit upon a young Mexican talent in Javier Hernandez, also known as Chicharito (the Little Pea).
A deal for the 21-year-old was agreed with Deportivo Guadalajara in April 2010, with United agreeing to play the Mexican club in a friendly at their new stadium later that year to sweeten the deal. [via The Guardian]
To say that the deal was being kept under wraps would be an understatement – his grandfather Tomas Balcazar, a former World Cup player with Mexico, was told that Hernandez was going on a trip to Atlanta when in fact he was crossing the Atlantic Ocean to attend United’s Champions League quarter-final home leg against Bayern Munich. [via The Telegraph]
When his transfer became official that summer, he arrived in Manchester buoyed by scoring two goals in his first World Cup as Mexico reached the last 16 in South Africa. The bounce from that tournament continued into his earliest games for United, as he scored in the Community Shield win against Chelsea.
Hernandez was by no means guaranteed a place in Ferguson’s line-up in his first season at Old Trafford – he only started 15 Premier League games and six in the Champions League – but he made a happy knack of scoring decisive goals after appearing as a substitute.
He came off the bench to score winning goals against Valencia, Wolves and West Brom, while he also popped up with vital goals in the Premier League run-in, such as the late winner against Everton and an early strike in a 2-1 victory over title rivals Chelsea as United reclaimed the trophy from the Blues.
There was no need for a ‘settling in’ period at the club for Hernandez, who ended the campaign with 13 goals in 27 league games and 20 in 45 matches in all competitions. [via TransferMarkt]
His penchant for decisive goals came to the fore again in the next two seasons, his highlights including a late equaliser as a substitute against Liverpool in October 2011 and the levelling goal against Chelsea in February 2012 when United came from 3-0 down to draw.
There were doubles in comeback wins against Braga and Aston Villa in 2012/13, when United trailed 2-0 on both occasions before winning 3-2. He also netted in a 3-2 win away to Chelsea in October 2012 and scored a late winner in a 4-3 thriller against Newcastle two months later.
Having reached double figures in each of his first three Premier League campaigns, Hernandez managed only four league goals in 2013/14 as United’s miserable attempt at a title defence ended with them in seventh. He was loaned out to Real Madrid for the 2014/15 season before leaving permanently for Bayer Leverkusen in August 2015, having been told by then-manager Louis van Gaal that he was free to move on.
Hernandez ended his Manchester United career with 59 goals in 157 games, a ratio of one every 2.66 games. No fewer than 14 of those goals directly won games for United, and that’s not including goals scored earlier in matches without which the team would not have earned victory.
He was the epitome of a penalty box predator, with every one of his United goals scored from inside the area and 23 from inside the six-yard box. [via WhoScored]
Fast-forward to the present day and goalscoring has become a difficulty for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team, who have just nine Premier League goals after eight games (four of those came in their first match against Chelsea) and seven in their last 10 matches in all competitions.
How Solskjaer must wish he had the Hernandez of the early years of this decade in his squad now, given United’s struggles in front of goal and the Mexican’s happy habit of popping up in the right place at the right time.
Manchester United fans, how good did you think Hernandez was in his Old Trafford days and how much would you like to have a goal-poacher like him at the club now? Comment below with your views!
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