In prodding the ball beyond Brad Guzan, Hernandez slides to the floor in a heap. It’s a sight United fans are used to seeing, except this time Hernandez doesn’t jump back to his feet with a broad, infectious smile across his face.
This time his celebration is reserved. He stands, arms raised by his side, looking miserably into the crowd.
Should Hernandez leave United this summer then that was the moment it first became clear he wanted to go.
Hernandez didn’t do anything wrong that day, but his reaction to scoring stood in stark contrast to his usually warm and bubbly character. He was clearly frustrated with the situation at United.
Hernandez would be the best in the world if football was played solely inside the 18-yard box.
Whether it’s making a darting run, drifting into a pocket of space or pouncing on a rebound, his instinct in front of the goal makes him a deadly asset. It’s no surprise that he racks up around 15 goals each season.
But outside the box Hernandez struggles to make an impact.
His first touch is erratic, which lets him down in areas where he needs good close control. His link-up play, which has improved considerably in recent seasons, is still not as good as it needs to be.
The Mexican just does not offer enough to warrant a regular starting place. Particularly in the modern game, dominated by false nines and teams who often deploy only one out-and-out striker, Hernandez’s weaknesses are exacerbated.
Managers feel inclined to use him as a super sub in order to maximise his strengths and minimise said weaknesses. It’s no coincidence that Mexico utilised him in much the same way at the World Cup.
Giovani dos Santos and Oribe Peralta were Miguel Herrera’s go-to men in attack, with Hernandez coming off the bench for the last 15 or 20 minutes.
That he now has the same problem for club and country should serve as a wake-up call for Hernandez.
Hernandez faces a dilemma. He can either remain at United, coming off the bench, making less than a dozen starts in a season, or he can move to a club where he’ll be the lead striker.
The only trouble for him is that he will have to downgrade to a lower-profile club if he opts for the latter. It’s hard to imagine a top-level European side handing him a starting role. For Hernandez, it’s a question of weighing a lack of playing time against the potential of winning trophies.
With Louis van Gaal set to take over at United after the World Cup, Hernandez’s prospects of staying at Old Trafford don’t look any more favourable.
Van Gaal is likely to adopt a 4-3-3 formation at United, or a variant of it, which means that his side will line up with just one centre-forward. It could be Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie, but it almost certainly won’t be Hernandez.
It works against the Mexican that United, like most teams, don’t play with two strikers.
And with Danny Welbeck gradually improving and James Wilson emerging as a real prospect through his youth-team performances, Hernandez, at 26, is approaching a critical juncture in his career.
Featuring regularly in club football is the only way Hernandez will be able to ensure he remains integral to Mexico in the next few years.
Since joining United in 2010, Hernandez has acted with class at all times and has demonstrated that he understands what it means to play for the club. He is a model professional.
But in recent weeks, he’s expressed his dismay at his current lack of playing time, per Tom Marshall of Goal.com: "I’ve never seen myself as a sub and I don’t like being one. And, believe me, I am tired of a lot of people seeing me that way, as a 'super-sub'. I’m a player that has made a difference as a starter."
Unless Van Gaal can convince Hernandez that he has a role to play, or the Mexican himself decides to settle for a bit part, it seems inevitable that he will depart Old Trafford this summer.
If Hernandez can find a club who will offer him European football and the chance to play week in and week out, then that would probably be the best-case scenario.
Hernandez has scored some wonderful, incredibly important goals in his time at United, which won’t be forgotten by the club or its fanbase, and the likelihood is that he will do just that for his next club if he does leave.
A clinical finisher and an outstanding professional, Hernandez remains a top player. United fans will be sad to see him go, but perhaps it’s a necessary move for him at this stage of his career.
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