It's often expected that foreign players coming into the Premier League experience an adjustment period necessary for them to acclimatize to the physical nature of the English game. Thus far, it has been difficult to discern any period of the sort for Manchester United's Javier Hernandez.
The 22-year-old Mexican forward, in his first season at Old Trafford, has burst spectacularly upon the scene, making an immediate impact for his new club.
Affectionately nicknamed "Chicharito", Spanish for "little pea," Hernandez has created quite the sensation in his young footballing career. Though only 22, he has already won the Mexican Primera Division title, the Inter Liga Cup title, England's Community Shield and been named the winner of his native land's Balon de Oro, as the top striker in Mexico. He is also now a featured member of Mexico's beloved National Team, racking up an impressive goal-scoring rate, including two goals in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
A third generation player for Mexico's National Team, Chicharito followed in the footsteps of his father, Javier Hernández Gutiérrez, who played for Mexico in the 1986 World Cup, as well as his grandfather, Tomás Balcázar, who played for El Tri in the 1954 World Cup.
His journey to professional football began as a nine-year-old, when he joined Chivas de Guadalajara's youth team. After developing in their system for several years, Chicharito signed his initial professional contract at the age of 15.
During the 2005-06 season, he made his debut for Chivas' lower division team, Chivas Coras. The next year, he earned his promotion to the Chivas first team, albeit only in a reserve role. He scored in his debut, but that would be his only goal in 20 appearances over his first two seasons in the Mexican Primera.
Hernandez began featuring regularly for Chivas during the 2008-09 season. He discovered his scoring touch, tallying seven goals in 32 appearances during that season. It was a modest total for a striker, but his performances began to hint at greater things to come for the young footballer.
Late in 2009, Chicharito was selected for Mexico's Senior National Team after making five appearances for the Under-20 National Team. His senior debut came in a 2-1 loss to Columbia on September 30, 2009. Hernandez assisted the only goal of the game and thus began his run as a regular for Mexico.
The 2009-10 season in Guadalajara witnessed the birth of a sensation as Chicharito began his ascension to the footballing stratosphere. During that season, Hernandez found the back of the net 21 times in only 28 games, racking up an elite scoring rate that began attracting attention internationally.
One of the teams following him closely was the illustrious English club Manchester United. They knew that if they waited too long to make a move, they may lose him to another European footballing giant, so they took no chances and approached him about a potential move to England before he featured for Mexico in the 2010 World Cup. A brilliant performance on the game's grandest stage would surely elevate his status and create much greater competition for his services.
In April of 2010, only two months before the World Cup in South Africa, United made their move to sign the talented young striker. He agreed to the terms, and his transfer became official on July 1 after clearing the requisite work permit hurdles.
His Manchester United career began with a flurry, as Chicharito produced a brilliant preseason for his new club. Debuting for the Red Devils on July 28, he substituted late in the friendly against the MLS All-Stars, netting another goal in a debut match. He then got to face his former club Chivas in a friendly with Manchester United that had been part of the deal to secure his transfer to England. Chicharito played the first half for Chivas, scoring against his new club before trading jerseys at half time.
Making another impressive debut, Hernandez scored yet again, netting in his first meaningful match for United in their FA Community Shield win over Chelsea to begin the season.
That was clearly a good omen for the rising young star, as he followed that debut match with a string of highly impressive performances for his new club. Chicharito's early career returns have already included a handful of match-winners and valuable contributions on the pitch.
Chicharito has utilized his quick feet and masterful ability to make incisive runs into opposing goal areas where he can be lethal with both feet. Surprisingly, for a player of only 5'9", he is crafty and dangerous in the air, when he is usually at least several inches shorter than many defenders.
In his short time in the Premier League, Hernandez has suddenly become one of the more dangerous forwards in the English upper division. His nine goals in only 19 appearances have made him a significantly lethal partner for either Wayne Rooney or Dimitar Berbatov in United's lineup.
Overall, in all competitions for Manchester, the young forward has earned 13 goals in 30 matches. He is quickly becoming an invaluable member of Sir Alex Ferguson's squad that currently sits in first place in the Premier League.
On January 4, 2011, Chicharito's goal in a 2-1 win over Stoke City made him the highest scoring player of Mexican origin in English Premier League history. Though that list is not yet very long, Hernandez appears destined to add significant volume to his record-setting total.
Throughout 2010, Javier Hernandez made himself a regular choice for Mexico's National Team. His impressive 12 goals in 21 total appearances for El Tri puts him on par with many of the premier goal-scoring threats in world football. During Mexico's run in the 2010 World Cup, he netted two goals in high profile matches, once against France, and another against Argentina. Manchester United had been wise in signing him before his impressive World Cup performance.
With a continual habit of scoring goals in debut matches, netting match-winners and starring in high-profile competitions, Chicharito is quickly making himself a star on two continents. His thrilling combination of talents along with his tireless work-rate, and goal-scoring prowess have him poised to become a legend in Mexico as his countrymen eagerly follow his exploits across the Atlantic.
Following each successive stellar performance, Chicharito is demolishing any doubts that ever existed over his transfer to England and his ability to handle the physicality of the Premier League. His continually improving game has impressed all that have seen him during his short time in Europe and the footballing world is witnessing a brilliant young star on the rise.
Perhaps the greatest part is that this may only be the beginning.
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