It was the 4th minute of Mexico´s World Cup qualifier against Guayana on Oct. 12 when Javier Hernandez breezed past ´keeper Derrick Carter and was brought down.
The Manchester United striker got up, brushed himself down, stepped up and chipped the penalty against the crossbar. What followed was a series of misses from Hernandez that had you wondering what had happened to that center forward who once could do no wrong. It was a low point for an out-of-form Hernandez, who was booed by some quarters of the crowd in Houston.
But “Chicharito” got a late goal, in the end, against Guyana and then another against El Salvador four days later to take his tally with Mexico to 28 – just one short of legend Hugo Sanchez – after just 42 appearances for El Tri.
Goals against Guyana and El Salvador were a welcome boost for Hernandez, but the big doubt was whether he could get closer to that Manchester United starting eleven and regain the prolific goalscoring that endeared him to the Old Trafford crowd.
On Tuesday, in his man of the match performance against Braga in the Champions League, there were signs that the player, who only debuted for the national team in 2010, was sharper and gaining in confidence.
It was arguably his best all-round performance for Manchester United.
Hernandez´s play was much improved from the player that left Chivas in the spring of 2010. His physical frame is stronger, he has more experience dealing with different types of defenders and gives the ball away much less. The two headed goals – including the winner - were the necessary shots of confidence that Hernandez was in need of.
With Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie all competing for places, it´s never going to be easy for the Mexican to become a regular starter. That´s even more the case with Sir Alex Ferguson changing the system slightly this season and mainly playing one central striker. But that doesn´t mean the manager doesn´t value Chicharito.
Ferguson has consistently praised Hernandez and shown no indication that he wants the 24-year-old to leave.
"He trains magnificently, he's improving all the time and he's got me thinking," said Ferguson after the Braga game.
'With him, Van Persie, Rooney and Welbeck ... I don't know what you do with them, to be honest.'
What´s more, Chicharito´s agent Eduardo Hernandez has been firm in coming out and stating that the player is in the right place and going nowhere.
“Don´t let yourselves be guided by the nonsense in the English press, they are rumors,” Eduardo Hernandez told Fox Sports. “He´s steady in Manchester United.”
Reacting to those who have said Chicharito needs to leave the northern English club, the agent, who represents many of Mexico´s top players, was equally forthcoming.
“It´s extremely stupid to say that he is wasting time in Manchester United when he has Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, one of the world´s best strikers, at his side,” Hernandez stated. “You don´t know what he is learning day in, day out in each training. He´s in the best place and everyone around him has no doubts about that.”
He added: “Chicharito is like wine, you have to let it mature. He´s in a superb university, look at it like that.”
In recent weeks, Hernandez has been linked with a host of clubs including Fiorentina, Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, Porto, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. The Mexican press naturally jumps on any rumor from the Old Continent involving the national team´s most high profile player.
But if he puts in a few more performances like the one against Braga, talk will turn not to Chicharito leaving Manchester United, but to whether those two goals on Tuesday were the first notes of another crescendo in the Guadalajara native´s career.
By Tom Marshall (@MexicoWorldCup)
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