Javier Hernandez or the ‘Little Pea’ has had football fans talking of late, particularly in the red half of Manchester. The excitement that now surrounds his move to Manchester United has largely silenced those who called for a big name signing whilst questioning the club’s financial ability to do so. Signed from Mexican side, Chivas de Guadalajara in a deal thought to be around £7 million, United insist their pre-emptive actions secured a relative bargain that is rarely acquired in today’s bloated transfer market. The player’s style has earned him comparisons with club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for his predatory goal-scoring instincts, quick movement and confidence in front of goal. Could the ‘Little Pea’ soon be Manchester United’s next ‘Baby-faced Assassin?’
Javier Hernandez came off the bench in United’s pre-season friendly against the MLS All-Stars on Thursday to score a sumptuous goal. He used his intelligence and sharp movement to exploit the space between the opposition defenders, controlling Fletcher’s through ball and promptly lobbed the onrushing goalkeeper. The attacker assimilated to the pace of the game without hesitation, giving a lively performance in which he tested the opposition keeper prior to his debut goal and won a free-kick which Darron Gibson expertly converted.
If pre-season form cannot be considered a reliable appraisal of a player’s potential, fans only have to cast their minds back to his performances for Mexico at this year’s World Cup. He excelled on the biggest stage of all, heaping more misery on the French squad by putting his side ahead against Les Bleus in their group stage encounter in Polokwane. In this game he came on as a substitute and rapidly repaid the faith of his manager by peeling of the last defender precisely at the right moment and rounded Hugo Lloris to score. In Mexico’s second round defeat to Argentina it was down to Hernandez to provide some form of consolation for his team. Finding space in the box he was able to turn Martin Demichelis and unleash a bullet shot with his left foot into the top corner. In these matches he displayed his numerous attributes, including the ability to find space, utilise his pace to unsettle defences, time a forward run and finish coolly with precision.
These enviable skills have drawn comparisons with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This hero of the Stretford End was hitherto unknown before joining United but briskly announced his arrival with a goal on his debut against Blackburn. He was habitually used as an impact substitute during his years at Old Trafford and displayed a special knack of scoring late goals. Scoring these goals in important games became his forte as he had the ability to sniff out the slightest chance which he would invariably convert with a deadeye finish. The Norwegian was not always the perennial super-sub but he often had to use his versatility to secure a starting place. Adept at playing on the wing, Solskjaer displayed his talents not only as a goal-scorer but also as a provider. His highlights reel will forever show the four goals he scored in twelve minutes against Nottingham Forest and his instinctive injury time finish to hand United victory against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League Final.
Hernandez’s traits invite comparison with the Norwegian who achieved so much at the club. Namely, the ability to make an impact, evade defenders, use pace and finish clinically. The confidence of the manager and expectation of the fans is there but the player may not simply walk into the starting line-up. United have various attacking options and Hernandez may have to demonstrate his flexibility before finding his own role in the club’s attack. Should he need any tips whilst reading the game from the bench ahead of making an impact he could do worse than consult the club’s reserve team manager, Solskjaer , for advice.