Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez left Manchester United in order to join Bayer Leverkusen for a fee of £12 million on Bundesliga deadline day in August 2015.
Hernandez has made seven appearances for Leverkusen and has already endeared himself to the fans with two goals. The 27 year old has scored in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League. Hernandez is keen to shrug off the ‘super sub’ tag he was attached to during his days at Manchester United. The Mexican international arrived at Old Trafford from Liga MX side, C.D. Guadalajara in 2010, and Hernandez was regarded as a huge young talent at the time.
In his first season under Sir Alex Ferguson, Chicharito shone, finding the net on 13 occasions in 27 appearances (he started just 15 matches). Hernandez’s 13 goals proved invaluable, as those goals helped Manchester United to their 19th domestic title triumph. Throughout the season Hernandez became renowned for the amount of goals he scored after coming off the bench – this leading to the then youngster to be dubbed a ‘super sub’. Hernandez scored four goals in the 2010-11 Champions League season, with one of them the vital opener in the second leg of the quarter-finals against Chelsea. Hernandez was integral in helping United to the final. He played all 90 minutes in the 3-1 final defeat to Barcelona. Hernandez scored 20 goals in all competitions in 2010-11.
Hernandez went on to score 10 league goals in both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. The 2012-13 season was special as Hernandez won his second Premier League title with The Red Devils. Hernandez started nine of his 22 league outings and scored 10 goals.
After three seasons at Old Trafford, Hernandez had failed to cement his place in the starting line-up despite his influence on his teams success. Two domestic titles in three seasons is a remarkable achievement, and if Hernandez was to have started more games, he may have felt more involved in the matchday plan, not to mention the subsequent celebrations.
Hernandez’s United career began to deteriorate in 2013-14, after David Moyes departed Everton to become Alex Ferguson’s successor. The season saw Hernandez start only six matches in 24 appearances, registering four goals and three assists. Still a valuable contribution, but his involvement was dwindling.
The 2014-15 Premier League season brought Hernandez no joy whatsoever, and there was a different man at the Old Trafford helm, the Dutchman Louis van Gaal. Van Gaal had seized control of the United ranks, and Hernandez played just one match under him, a 45 minute stint in a defeat to Swansea before being loaned out to the then European champions, Real Madrid. Hernandez made 23 appearances for the Spanish giants, starting seven matches, and plundering seven goals and four assists. Hernandez didn’t receive much playing time but he did enjoy a fairly successful spell, scoring a handful of goals, a handsome feat at a club of Real Madrid’s calibre. Notably, Hernandez scored a goal in the Madrid derby against hated rivals Atletico Madrid.
Hernandez returned to Manchester United to commence the 2015-16 season. He was somewhat misled by Van Gaal, who gave Hernandez the impression that he would be given another chance at the club. As it turned out, Hernandez only made three appearances in all competitions before being sold to Leverkusen.
For the Mexico national team, Hernandez is the second all time top-scorer, he sits on 41 goals for his country, just five behind the all time top scorer, Jared Borgetti. Hernandez’s overall club goal record may not appear to be great on paper, but under examination it is not a bad record considering his career has constantly been hindered by a lack of extended, first-choice playing time.
At 27 years old Hernandez still has a lot of quality to offer; he possesses great pace, and his fantastic positioning coupled with his clinical finishing abilities make him a major goal threat. Under Roger Schmidt, Leverkusen are renowned for their exciting high pressing style of play. It is known as Gegenpressing, and it is a style that has also been utilised by the likes of Barcelona, as well as German sides Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.
It is a simple but effective method; hallmarked by a high pressing type game where players try and obtain the ball as high up the field as possible. If successful it can lead to quick and deadly counter-attacks, as the opposition may also become more vulnerable at the back if players have started to push forward before losing the ball.
This is a style that Hernandez can easily be incorporated into, and the qualities he brings to the BayArena can only help the cause. Playing in this type of system could provide for the striker a real sense of cohesion, bring out his very best.
Bayer Leverkusen truly believe in Hernandez, and it seems like the striker is finally at a club where he feels welcome and wanted. After making the switch to Leverkusen, Hernandez told Fox Sports the following:
“I want to go back to feeling important and happy… I want to find happiness. Bayer made me feel important and loved and coming here was not a difficult decision to make. They made me feel wanted. I want to help and achieve important things, I have felt very loved. I hope to accomplish things in my head and in my heart.”
Hernandez is eager to embark on a successful era throughout the duration of his Leverkusen career. It’s more than possible for Hernandez to resurrect his career at this great club because it appears he’s at an organisation that appreciates him and will provide him with the minutes he’s always deserved. Hernandez is a pure, hard working footballer who strives to be the best he can for his club, always trying to exceed his own limits. Here, at Leverkusen, Hernandez will only grow in confidence.
Hernandez is not overrated by any means, even though he has played the bit-part man for two of the biggest teams in the world. The accolades he collected along the way, while impressive, were counter-balanced by a regrettable deprivation of game time. His goals off the bench were truly instrumental in helping Manchester United win their last two league titles to date and he featured as a potent second option for Real Madrid. Many players dream of taking the field in the red of United, or the white of Madrid, but for now, the Little Pea just wants to be first choice.