It is likely to be a summer of great change at Old Trafford, again, and Javier Hernandez looks set to join the list of players to leave. And with Robin Van Persie in line to join Radamel Falcao’s in heading through the exit door, United are looking short of centre-forwards.
Arriving back in the UK after his season-long loan at Real Madrid, Hernandez has faced many of the problems that plagued his time at United. While Karim Benzema continued to hold down the starting spot, Hernandez only managed a few starts and functioned more as a substitute. The Mexican poacher is full of confidence that he is deserving of an opportunity as a starter at a top club and could push a move away from Old Trafford to get this opportunity.
Unfortunately for ‘Chicharito’, the modern game asks more of its strikers than just a killer instinct. In the role of ‘bridesmaid’ at both United and Real Madrid, Hernandez is a handy member of the squad, but his restricted all-round game makes him unlikely to become any more than that.
However, Van Gaal may see reason to keep hold of Hernandez for a little while longer. First of all, there is likely to be a number of ins and outs at Old Trafford this summer and any turmoil can be minimised by utilising what they already have. Secondly, if Hernandez were to agree to stay, he could act as excellent cover for Wayne Rooney and boasts a supreme goals per minute record. From United’s perspective, keeping ‘Chicharito’ on for another campaign makes a great deal of sense while others bed in around him, but its understandable that he is searching first-team football.
On a more practical level, Hernandez’s type of play was something United missed for large parts of the 2014/15 season. While Falcao and Van Persie are both highly regarded strikers, their shortage of pace and apparent lack of desire to run in behind severely limited United and often congested their midfield as they both looked to drop off. Only when Rooney played up front did they appear to have someone who may stretch the defence, and Hernandez has the extra pace to cause more problems.
Additionally, the accurate passing of Juan Mata and Ander Herrera in midfield would be the ideal service for the ex-Chivas ace’s sharp and instinctive movement, while Memphis Depay and Angel Di Maria can stretch the game wide.
As United look to challenge for the title once again, any unnecessary changes to the squad should be minimised while the new generation gel. Hernandez may not be pleased to be seen as second fiddle once more, but United must act in a more pragmatic way than last summer and other positions are in far more need of investment than up front.
If Hernandez is to force his way out and continue to poach elsewhere, Ed Woodward and Van Gaal should look at a market where £15 million is being quoted for Charlie Austin and stick to a high price for the Mexican.