Javier Hernandez was the difference as Manchester United fought back to beat Aston Villa 3-2 on Saturday. The red-hot Mexican scored twice and claimed an assist when his shot went in off Villa's Ron Vlaar.
Hernandez now has seven goals in his last five games. He's displaying a sharpness we haven't seen since the 2010-11 season—his first in a United shirt—and was deservedly the subject of glowing praise from his manager Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday.
Said Ferguson, to reporters at Villa Park:
It just wasn't happening for any of us in the first half. I just felt Chicharito's pace and movement around the box can change games. Once again, as he has been doing all season, he was fantastic. When you score a hat-trick like that he has picked himself next week.
Ferguson was right. Hernandez's movement for all three United goals was a lesson for all strikers in training.
The first saw him drive between Ciaran Clark and Enda Stevens and anticipate Paul Scholes' ball over the top. Stevens lost concentration to play Hernandez onside and Chicharito did the rest.
The run was great for two reasons—firstly because it was down a channel both Villa defenders thought the other would deal with, and secondly because it was timed perfectly to catch them square.
United's second goal was another example of Hernandez anticipating the area a ball would be played into. With bodies rushing to the near post, Hernandez hung back and swooped in to meet Rafael's cross.
Hernandez saved his best run for last. As Robin van Persie stepped up to deliver a free-kick from United's right, Hernandez shaped to move left then sprang right to lose his marker and find space to head home United's winner.
With that, United had the game won and yet another comeback to add to their list. Ferguson deserves credit for bringing Hernandez off the bench, and the Little Pea for making the very most of his opportunity.
Hernandez might lack the quality of van Persie or Rooney, but his movement is at least a match for both of them.