Should Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez stick or twist at Manchester United?
It is a question Mexico fans have asked for most of 2013, but it's raising its head with increasing vigor at the start of 2014, largely due to that small matter of June’s World Cup.
On Tuesday, the former Chivas player had to wait until the 87th minute to come on in the Red Devils’ Capital One Cup semifinal first leg at Sunderland, when the game seemed set up for the Mexican goal-poacher. The team had been behind since the 65th, was piling pressure on the Black Cats and was desperate for a goal to level the score at 2-2.
Yet David Moyes waited until there were only three minutes of regular time to put the Guadalajara native on.
It would hasty to judge Chicharito’s current position at the club on one game. After all, he went 90 minutes and scored last Sunday against Swansea, played 30 minutes of the Tottenham game and 86 minutes in the win against Norwich. In itself, that is far from intolerable, but he’s played under 500 minutes in total in the Premier League this season and since the summer of 2012 has only started 13 league games for the club.
With the busy festive run of fixtures coming to an end, United out of the FA Cup, with a maximum of two games more in the league cup and Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie both due back shortly from injury, the prospect of Hernandez getting regular playing time in order to arrive at Brazil 2014 in rhythm and fully fit is bleak.
Indeed, Sunday’s goal was Hernandez’s first in any competition since late October and when all four central strikers are fit, all evidence suggests Chicharito is Moyes’ fourth choice. In a system that is geared towards playing only one out-and-out striker, Hernandez has zero adaptability to drop into the hole or on the wing, as Danny Welbeck can.
The player will know all that, as will his agent. They will also know the January transfer window is open and that a couple of very good clubs – including Arsenal – are reported to be on the lookout for a striker and Hernandez could quite easily – at 25 and hitting his prime years – find a match, considering his scoring record since joining Manchester United in the summer of 2010, where he’ll get more minutes.
But there is a stumbling block to any potential winter transfer and that is Manchester United.
Moyes is unlikely to want a player with a standup attitude, ability to score late goals and someone is proven in both the Premier League and Champions League to leave; especially not in the January market at a time when the team needs every bit of help it can get.
The only real option for Hernandez is to express his desire to leave and hand in a transfer request, although given his status with Manchester United fans, how comfortable he appears to be in North West England and his non-controversial character, it is difficult to see him doing it.
At this point, a move may well be the best thing for the player, Mexico coach Miguel Herrera and El Tri’s chances at Brazil, but unless Manchester United bring someone in, Chicharito’s chances of leaving the club this winter appear to be minimal.