A couple weeks ago I found myself watching a copy of the 2012-2013 Season Review. Along with the immense pleasure I found in remembering a time when United was at the apex of British football, I was struck quite profoundly by the realisation of the immense part that Chicharito played in the success of Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season. Certainly I realised it at the time, but looking back at all of the close shaves where he won last second points for the Red Devils resulting in a tally of 18 goals in 36 games, I was in awe. The Mexican’s cool nature in front of goal and his unnatural ability to be in the right place at the right time left me wondering what happened. Did David Moyes so destroy the diminutive finisher that van Gaal could have no use for him this year?
The truth is that Hernandez had a rough 2013-2014 season. He only halved his tally from the year before, scoring just 9 times in 35 appearances, and he often looked lost and ineffective. That said, the same thing could be said about Manchester United as a whole last year. The team was, by and far, lost and ineffective. It may not be quite so fair to place too much blame on Chicharito’s shoulders.
This season, van Gaal shipped Hernandez off on loan to an exalted spot on Real Madrid’s bench, banking on the fact that the strike-force of Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao, and the young pair of James Wilson and Adnan Januzaj would be able to carry the team’s offensive load. It hasn’t happened like that though, with Rooney being pushed back to midfield, Mata being dropped to the bench, van Persie and Falcao being unable to produce with consistency, and Wilson and Januzaj too young to be expected to carry the team. Of all the issues, perhaps most striking has been the attack’s inability to convert simple chances right in front of goal. Too many times have United’s world class players missed opportunities that were clearly there for the taking.
That’s where Chicharito comes to mind. If anything, he was adept at finishing close-range poaching opportunities. His greatest skill may well be the close finishes the Red Devils attack seems to keep passing on. Often I criticised him for being disconnected from the midfield and offering little outside of his finishing abilities, but the truth is that our strikers this year have shown that same disconnect. Falcao and van Persie have often been fighting for scraps this season, and the reality is that they have done very little with their chances. I can’t help but feel that if United is going to continue to cater to a philosophy that leads to very few offensive opportunities, then maybe a finishing specialist like Chicharito is needed. Maybe his passing is not the best, maybe he is not an effective target for crosses, but Hernandez has the capacity to be very effective in front of goal when he’s on form. He is still young and it’s just too early to pass on him as a striker. The goalscoring record this season for the Red Devils has simply been not good enough, and I can’t help but feel that van Gaal might live to rue his decision to ship the Mexican striker down river.