Goals Won't Be Enough to Make Javier Hernandez First Choice at Manchester United

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Goals Won't Be Enough to Make Javier Hernandez First Choice at Manchester United
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

It's been a good week for Javier Hernandez.

On as a substitute against Stoke on Saturday, he scored the winner. Three days later he got two against Norwich in the Capital One Cup. That's four in eight appearances this season if anyone's counting.

The problem is, they probably aren't. And that, in a nutshell, is life in a big squad at a big club.

In the last five days, the Mexican striker has earned United three valuable Premier League points and written their name on a ball for the quarter-final draw of the League Cup.

Surely then, he'll get the chance to win more points on Saturday at Fulham and smooth United's progress in the Champions League against Real Sociedad on Tuesday?

Well, not quite.

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With Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and maybe even Danny Welbeck returning for the trip to Craven Cottage, it's likely that Hernandez will find himself back on the bench.

After United's second string had performed so well against Liverpool in the last round of the Capital One Cup, David Moyes stuck with eight of them for the league game with West Brom.

He'll be keen not to get burned twice.

Hernandez's goalscoring record at United is more than respectable: 20 goals in 45 games in his first season, 12 in 26 in his second and 18 in 36 in his third.

He already sits above Louis Saha, Carlos Tevez and Teddy Sheringham in United's list of goalscorers. The 15 goals he has scored as a substitute is second only to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the most famous of super subs.

His record so far this season compares favourably, too. His four goals in eight games is better than Welbeck's three in eight. Rooney has six in 12 while van Persie has scored six goals in 10 appearances.

But only once since signing from Guadalajara for £7 million in 2010 has he been considered first choice at United. That was at the end of his first season when he played his way into Sir Alex Ferguson's plans for the 2011 Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley.

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Since then, competition for a place has only increased thanks to van Persie and Welbeck.

Hernandez can be a victim of his own very specific talent. He's a striker, a goalscorer, but that can sometimes deprive him of chances to start.

Van Persie, Rooney and Welbeck can all play in other positions, either deeper or out wide. Hernandez can't. He wants to play on the shoulder of the last defender, running into the space behind or sniffing out gaps between the centre-halves in the penalty area.

He's a wonderful player for Moyes to be able to call on. Players that can change a game in the last 10 minutes are worth their weight in gold, as Moyes will know after sending him on against Stoke.

United are likely to play more than 50 games this season and Hernandez will get plenty of opportunities and, most likely, will score plenty of goals.

But when it comes to the big games—the Arsenals, the Chelseas and the Real Madrids—it will be Rooney and van Persie who get the nod.

For Hernandez, there's no easy answer. That's what life is like at one of the world's biggest clubs.

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