The 25-year-old Mexican is currently behind Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck in David Moyes' selection policy meaning at present, he sits on the bench predominantly.
He arrived as a hot prospect from his native Mexico having just turned 22 and hailed as one of the most exciting talents in South America. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Hernandez was given enough opportunity to blossom into an important player for United who gave them an alternative option from Rooney and previously Dimitar Berbatov but, with the arrival of Van Persie and the emergence of Welbeck, his place in the first team has not been cemented.
Ferguson did, however, manage to balance and rotate his front men well across all competitions, ensuring Chicharito got enough chances to continue his development in his early twenties and fight for his place with the senior strikers.
However, with pressure on Moyes to succeed this term, it’s not surprising he’s opted to play his two most senior and cultured strikers but this could have a detrimental affect on Hernandez, which, ahead of next summer’s World Cup in Brazil, is surely a concern.
He’s no longer what you’d call a youngster either and, as he approaches the most prolific years of a striker’s career (between 26 and 30) he really needs to be playing regular football – if not for United, then someone else.
It would seem is not short on suitors either, even if he’s short on playing opportunities – after being flirted with by Juventus and Athletico Madrid all summer long, he is now being courted (according to the mainstream press) by both Arsenal and Tottenham but, crucially, which of the North London rivals would suit him best if he did opt to move in January?
Arsenal currently only have one senior recognised centre forward in Olivier Giroud and their over reliance on the Frenchman could likely give Arsene Wenger something to think about this winter.
Tottenham have new signing Roberto Soldado, Jermaine Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor at present – the former seems to be settling in well with Andre Villas-Boas’ team and style and Defoe will also have one eye on the World Cup which at present means he’s fighting hard for a place in the team and giving the boss a selection headache.
I would imagine Adebayor may well go in January – he’s hardly got a look in since he returned after taking leave following the death of his brother. He could be more involved as we move in November but I would expect he’ll want regular football and it’s unlikely he’ll get that at White Hart Lane.
Both Tottenham and Arsenal invested in creative players this summer which, for a striker like Hernandez, should be a consideration – the likes of Mesut Ozil for the Gunners and Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli and the return to Spurs of Andros Townsend will mean the service he could receive would be top notch.
Arsenal also have some exceptional passers and technically gifted attackers in Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Spurs’ Lewis Holtby, Moussa Dembele, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aaron Lennon, and Paulinho mean Hernandez would not be short of supply whichever he chose (hypothetically).
Arsene Wenger is the longest serving manager in the league and, whilst Villas-Boas has a fantastic record and is certainly one of the best in Europe, the Frenchman’s record of developing youth and getting the best out of players, especially strikers, speaks for itself.
The form of Giroud at present demonstrates that – he’s scored 9 goals and made 4 assists in 15 appearances across all competitions for club and country so far this term and has improved considerably over last season, especially in terms of his movement, finishing, technical level and passing.
Soldado has also got off to a good start in England, scoring 5 goals and making 2 assists in 9 appearances for Spurs and he’ll have his eye on the World Cup with Spain too which will likely keep him working hard.
I think, overall, if Hernandez was to leave United in January he’d be doing so with a heavy heart and the motivation that he wants to play football as much as possible.
The lack of competition at Arsenal for the spot up front would likely give him more access and, to add to that, he could play in the Champions League too and, under an experienced boss like Wenger, he could flourish and improve on what he’s already achieved at United. If he goes to Spurs, he’ll likely have much the same problem and much the same level of competition and, subsequently, opportunity.
image: © Audrey Pilato