Why Did It Go Wrong for Javier Hernandez at Manchester United?

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Why Did It Go Wrong for Javier Hernandez at Manchester United?
Uncredited/Associated Press

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez's future at Manchester United has been the subject of good deal of speculation, but why does this beloved figure find his Old Trafford future in doubt?

Last week, Hernandez said to La Corriere dello Sport (h/t The London Evening Standard):  

I know there is much interest in me from the Italian club [Inter Milan] and I thank them for this. It would be disrespectful to mention other teams, even though I do not know what will happen once the tour of the US concludes.

When he first came to United, Chicharito was a breath of fresh air. Arriving ahead of United's victorious 2010/11 season, he announced himself in the Community Shield against Chelsea. The goal he scored in that match was very scrappy, bouncing off his foot, into his face and in. However, over the course of that season, the 19 competitive goals he managed showed that his eye for goal was no accident.

He scored with both feet and both the front and back of his head. Fans quickly got used to seeing him line up a side-footed, putter-like shot and beat the 'keeper.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

With three games to go in his debut season, United again faced Chelsea, this time in a game that really mattered. Within a minute of Hernandez's pre-game, centre-circle prayers he had put United 1-0 up and sent Old Trafford into raptures. It was a moment in which it felt like the Little Pea had won United the league.

He has rarely hit the same heights since.

Until Sir Alex Ferguson left United, Hernandez at least retained his shooting boots, but the seeds of his future difficulties were sown.

Clive Mason/Getty Images

There was a dip in his second season, during which he managed 12 goals in all competitions. Then Ferguson signed Robin van Persie in the summer of 2012.

Sir Alex made an apparently throwaway remark, when discussing his abundance of attacking talent, in September 2012. He was asked whether Van Persie and Wayne Rooney could play together and said that they could (h/t the Daily Telegraph). 

Van Persie is flexible because he can play in different positions, from the right, in behind the strikers. He is such a mobile player, there are great options with him. And Wayne can play behind and he can play up.

Chicharito is the only one-position player and that is through the middle.

Even as the "only one-position player," Sir Alex still managed to make effective use of the Mexican. Scoring 18 goals in 36 appearances, Hernandez managed his best ratio of goals to games in any of his United seasons during 2012/13.

He went on a run of seven goals in five games in October and November 2012, giving Ferguson a significant selection headache. He never cemented a first-team place, though, and then Hernandez's problems at United got a lot worse.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

In summer 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson retired, to be replaced by David Moyes.

Moyes did not have Sir Alex's experience of keeping an elite squad happy. His disastrous tenure saw him under such pressure for results that he rarely experimented with his selections.

Consequently, Hernandez did not start many games. By the latter part of the season, his "non celebration" in front of the Stretford End when he scored against Aston Villa indicated just how unhappy he was. It could not have stood in starker contrast to the joie de vivre with which he celebrated his early goals at United.

Hernandez's United career went wrong because Sir Alex bought Robin van Persie and selected David Moyes as his successor once he retired.

It also went wrong because he offers more limited options than his colleagues. He is not able to make the same contribution to build-up play as Rooney or Van Persie. His finishing is superb, but under Moyes United struggled to create chances for him.

While this article asks "why did it go wrong," the truth is that his United career has been anything but unsuccessful.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

He made a major contribution to two league titles, won the hearts of many United fans and started in a Champions League final.

Perhaps he never hit the dizziest heights of super stardom, but he has hardly been a flop.

He remains too good to be wasted on United's bench and not good enough to break into the first team. If he leaves for pastures new, he will go with the blessing of most United fans.

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