Javier Hernández not reborn after Man United – he’s simply getting the chance to play

Borussia Mönchengladbach suffered their first Bundesliga defeat under new coach André Schubert at the weekend, with a rampant Bayer Leverkusen putting the Foals to the sword, 5-0 at the BayArena.

Although a returning Stefan Kießling netted a brace and the likes of Christoph Kramer and the impressive Kevin Kampl starred, much of the spotlight has been shone on Javier Hernández.

The diminutive Mexican striker hit a hat-trick in the rout to continue his recent stellar form in front of goal since moving to Germany and extending his record to 17 goals in 20 games for Roger Schmidt’s side.

Chicharito’s performances and goals have been picked up by the widespread British press, who have used the Mexican’s heroics as another reason to criticise his former club Manchester United and their maligned manager Louis van Gaal.

The Old Trafford outfit have looked devoid of attacking menace this season apart from the individualism of young star Anthony Martial, with talk of a title push starting to dwindle.

Given that both Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie departed in the summer, United were clearly playing with fire in also letting Hernández go and are now paying the price.

From the player’s perspective, the last couple of months may well have been the most enjoyable of his career.

Yes, under Sir Alex Ferguson the former Guadalajara forward was selected regularly and played a part in the Red Devils scooping two Premier League titles.

However, the Mexico international was never guaranteed a starting berth in his five years at Old Trafford, with 2011-12 his best season in terms of appearances, where he started just 18 Premier League games.

Since moving to the Bundesliga and despite the presence of long-term Leverkusen fan favourite Kießling, Chicharito has become the main man at the German club.

Contrary to popular thought and the analysis of the British press, Hernández has not been reborn, rejuvenated or improved – he is still the same player, just one that has been afforded the luxury of being able to play.

During his time at United, Hernández followed in the footsteps of Ole Gunnar Solskjær and was labelled as something of a super-sub.

When he was given time on the pitch though, the Mexican showed that he had the attributes to be an asset for the English club and scored important goals for United.

The 27-year-old needed to leave in the summer to ensure regular football elsewhere, which is paying off now.

However, to suggest that Hernández is a different player or has improved since moving to Leverkusen is inaccurate.

Against Mönchengladbach he displayed the same traits that were available to United, both good and bad.

Javier HernándezAn able footballer, Hernandez is not exceptional; he will never be as electric as Sergio Agüero, as powerful as Romelu Lukaku, as cultured as an on-form Wayne Rooney.

That said, Hernández’s most valuable entity is a critical one in football and always has been. He knows how to score goals.

On Saturday Hernandez was guilty of giving possession away easily, he didn’t hold the ball up anywhere near as effectively as Stefan Kießling did and was on the game’s peripheries for prolonged spells – despite his team’s dominance.

But, when the opportunities arose Hernández’s instinct, movement and clinical finishing propelled his name to the headlines.

A superbly taken opener was complemented by an impressive curled second, before a distinctly trademark Chicharito close-range finish sealed his hat-trick.

The Mexican’s style of play may not be as aesthetically pleasing as Martial or Rooney, but it is much more effective in the business of winning football matches.

With United lacking substance this season, Hernández seems like an ideal proponent of the winning ugly model – someone who can decide a game in his team’s favour through his ability to poach and convert.

The Red Devils sold Chicharito for a reported £7.3 million in the summer, but his valuation is now likely more than double that without him changing anything about the way he plays – he has just played more.

United could certainly use Hernández in these times of trouble, but for the player and new club Leverkusen a budding romance is blossoming simply due to the striker being first choice.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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