Javier Hernández formally became a Manchester United player yesterday following a successful World Cup with Mexico in South Africa. Although dumped out of the competition by Argentina last week, Hernández’ side conformed to expectations while the striker hit the headlines with two well-taken goals against France and Diego Maradona’s side.
Hernández, also known as Chicharito – the ‘Little Pea’ – now joins United amid much higher expectations than just a few short weeks ago, with the 21-year-old’s relative obscurity evaporating by the game following nine goals in his first 17 international games.
Indeed, while the Mexican’s £7 million acquisition was generally viewed as ‘one for the future’, with a first season sacrificed to bedding in, the striker’s growing maturity may proffer an immediate first team opportunity.
It’s exactly this scenario that accelerated the United’s move for the player in April, with the club concerned that an excellent World Cup performance would impact the striker’s eventual price. Driven by the new economics at the club perhaps but a smart move if the player’s undoubted potential is fulfilled.
Hernández’ immediate opportunities will depend on how quickly he adapts both to life in England and the pace of the Premier League. Fleeting glimpses in South Africa confirmed the striker’s excellent first touch, lightening quick pace over the first 10 yards and, surprisingly since the Mexican stands at just 5’7”, a Tim Cahil-esque.
Good form in pre-season might yet accelerate the player’s progress yet further. It’s a view held by former United striker Frank Stapleton, who played 288 games for the club following his 1981 £900,000 transfer from Arsenal.
“He has a good opportunity now to hit the ground running in England,” Stapleton told the Manchester Evening News yesterday.
“Time will tell how he handles that. But the good thing for him is that Sir Alex Ferguson knows just how to introduce young players.
“If the player shows up well early on in pre-season then the manager might just says let’s go with him. Players find their level.
“It might start well for Hernandez and then he peaks and there is a reaction. But Fergie will see that and know it is time to give him a breather.
“He might not have considered Javier for an immediate impact.
“But it has happened in the past where players who were looked on as ‘ones for the future’ have made such a good early impression that the United manager has given them a chance.”
Mexico’s second round elimination and the relatively short game-time the pacey striker gained in South Africa – three substitute appearances and one start – means that Chicharito could play some part in United’s summer tour to North America and Mexico.
United’s game against Hernández’ old club Chivas, in Guadalajara on 30 July, may well be the romantics’ choice for the player’s club début, with Ferguson offering each of his World Cup players a full month’s holiday.
Hernández’ United future also significantly depends on Ferguson’s tactical outlook for the new season. With the United manager rarely deploying two strikers and the World Cup confirming 4-4-2 is effectively dead at the highest level, Chicarito’s role may be restricted to that of Wayne Rooney’s back-up.
With Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen, Federico Macheda, Danny Welbeck and Mame Biram Diouf already on the books the Mexican will need to hit the ground running if he is to feature next season. Rumours of an impending bid for Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema will hardly help the new import’s cause.
But there is, of course, a precedent for an obscure young acquisition making an immediate impact at Old Trafford – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 14 years ago. The Norwegian scored on his debut against Blackburn Rovers and went on to score 126 goals for the club.
Anywhere near that and Chicharito will prove a major bargain.