What Went Wrong for Javier Hernandez at Manchester United?

Rob BlanchetteFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28:  Javier Hernandez of Manchester United shows his dejection after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

When a smiling and unknown Mexican turned up at Old Trafford, there was no welcoming committee in place from the United faithful. 

Initially, the young boy appeared not to fit into the immediate United jigsaw. He became the first player from his country to play for the Red Devils, and on the surface seemed no more than a fringe-player signing, much like Manucho had been a year or so before. 

After extensive monitoring, United had been on Javier Hernandez's trail as far back as 2009. It was without doubt one of the most incredible pieces of scouting an English club has done in the modern era. 

At £6 million, "Little Pea" has delivered an outstanding goal return for United, with 54 goals in 125 club appearances, and with a stunning 35 goals in 57 international games, Hernandez is indeed one of the hottest strikers on the planet.

So why does it appear that his time in Manchester might be coming to an end?

A rogue retweet hinted toward Chicharito's state of mind, as rumours surfaced of a possible exit for the player, as reported in the Daily Mail. Hernandez publicly displayed a tweet that quotes his international colleague Carlos Vela as saying on Sky Sports:

"If he plays regularly he will score, so I don't totally understand why a player of his quality has not played more games. If he doesn't play regularly he will need to think about leaving. You always want to succeed at the biggest clubs - but if he is not given the chance there will be big teams in England and Europe wanting him."

The fact he has not deleted the tweet from his account suggests it was not an innocent posting error.

There is no doubting Hernandez's unique skill set. The player has lightning reflexes and betters Wayne Rooney in terms of point-blank finishing. There is also no doubt that his general game has improved. In his first season, there were clear inconsistencies in what he could naturally do, but he has worked on these weaknesses and is now a more rounded player.

However, the question remains: Is Chicharito really good enough for Manchester United?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22:  Carlos Vela of Real Sociedad de Futbol faces the media during a press conference at Old Trafford on October 22, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Chicharito's story is similar to those of Mark Robins and Giuseppe Rossi, both of whom were diminutive strikers who could finish with aplomb. The Mexican has far and away outshone the basic achievements of these two players, but both found it hard to break through and be the players they should have been for United, because of the system the club prefers to play.

Being a finisher has never been enough to play for Manchester United. Andy Cole showed how you could come to the club as a predatory striker and become a player that others could play off and thrive. After three years in Manchester, Hernandez is not that type of player.

What Hernandez is, though, is a goal machine. If you feed him, then he will score. His goals-to-games ratio is currently the highest in Premier League history, beating the likes of Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer and Didier Drogba. However, for a long period of time, "just" being a goalscorer has not been enough to be first choice at United.

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 15:  Giuseppe Rossi of Manchester United in action during the Pre-season friendly Vodacom Challenge match between Manchester United and Orlando Pirates at ABSA stadium on July 15, 2006 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo by Touchl
Touchline/Getty Images

Robin van Persie is the archetypal Manchester United striker. He is a player that both scores and has the ability to assist. Hernandez struggles with the latter, and it is this reason that loses him kudos when choosing a first team.

Not since Ruud van Nistelrooy has United relied on a predatory striker to run their front line. Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck also fit the mandate more than "Chico," as they offer something across the whole forward line.

Hernandez is purely the "super sub" who will be rotated in and out. This very fact must greatly worry the Mexican.

The rhetorical question in Chicharito's situation is: Can he ever really be a United first-teamer?

The answer would appear to be no.

BERNE, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 09: Robin van Persie (L) of Netherlands comes on for Ruud van Nistelrooy of Netherlands during the Euro 2008 Group C match between Netherlands and Italy at Stade de Suisse Wankdorf on June 9, 2008 in Berne, Switzerland.  (Photo b
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

However, he is the type of player United need to retain. You cannot find many strikers with a goal ratio as good as his, but everything depends on if he is prepared to be David Moyes' "modern day Ole Gunnar Solskjaer."

I think Javier Hernandez's only failing is that he might have chosen the wrong club, and I say that in a subjective tone. United have been very lucky to find such a fantastic goalscorer, but many great players in the past have struggled to carve their niches at the club. Old Trafford used to be referred to as the "Strikers' Graveyard" after a notable number of failures in the forward positions. Unfortunately, Hernandez might fall foul as well, even with the stellar goal return. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 25:  Javier Hernandez of Manchester United in action during the Capital One Cup Third Round match betwen Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on September 25, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney
Julian Finney/Getty Images

I hope Chicharito signs a new deal, but there is no guarantee that will happen. However, if the player wants to be a major football club's prime striker, he may find that he will have to do this away from "The Theatre of Dreams."