By Andrew Hush
March 30, 2011.- Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed the impact made by Javier Hernandez in his first season at Old Trafford and, in an exclusive interview with ESPN, backed the 22-year-old Mexican to get even better.
Ferguson was speaking at the announcement of United’s summer tour to the United States which, for the second consecutive year, will see United provide the opposition for a Major League Soccer select XI in the annual all-star game, which will be held at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, on Wednesday July 27.
It was in that fixture last year that Hernandez first donned United colours and the striker marked the occasion with a goal which immediately earned him favourable reviews from his manager and senior colleagues.
“I remember Paul Scholes saying ‘boss, he’ll score 25 goals’,” Ferguson told ESPN. “I said, ‘do you think so?’ He said ‘yeah, he’s got the touch’. So we had an expectation that he would score.”
Goals in the World Cup against France and Argentina had suggested Hernandez was a star in the making but, despite those impressive displays and his pre-season promise, Ferguson did not expect the levels of consistency that have led him to score 16 times in 34 games this season.
“When he first came in I think it was like every other young player coming from another continent to English football, it’s not easy. So there was a settling-in period allowing him to develop physically. Bit-by-bit, when we were bringing him on and he started to perform and score these important goals, you said ‘well, his rest period is over, his breaking-in period is over’ and he has been more regular and his performances have improved by it and he’s just done absolutely fantastic.”
In tipping Hernandez for even greater things, Ferguson cites a number of key qualities he sees in the Mexico international, starting with his work ethic:
“The boy comes in every morning at nine o’clock, does his gym work on his own, joins in with the players at ten and then, after training, he practices with some of the other players. He has got the determination to succeed. He’s got the fire needed to be a top player.”
The United manager also suggests that, by following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both of whom represented Mexico, Hernandez is driven by a desire to maintain a proud family tradition. Having been alerted to the then 21-year-old’s potential late in 2009, Ferguson was delighted with the process that saw the move, which is reported to have cost United between £6-7 million, go through and he paid tribute to Hernandez’s former club, C.D. Guadalajara.
“I think we were very fortunate to get in quickly and we had great help from Chivas, who were fantastic with us. We have built a really good relationship with that club. (It is) well-run, with a good professional set-up. We sort of resonate with most of the things that they do and their help in that situation was phenomenal. Not a bit of news got out during the negotiations with the deal.”
It is expected that Hernandez will miss the early part of this summer’s tour, due to the commitments he will have with his country at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Defending champions Mexico are among the favourites to reach the tournament’s final, which takes place on June 25.
United play the first of their matches against New England Revolution on July 13 before facing Seattle Sounders seven days later. Chicago Fire provide the opposition on July 23, with the all-star game to follow before the schedule concludes against Spanish champions Barcelona on July 30.
Hernandez will be a major draw when he does join up with his team-mates. Relatively unknown when news of his transfer was announced last April, he has wasted no time in making a name, or names, for himself. Manchester United fans, not to mention the club’s manager, are delighted with the man they call ‘Chicharito’.
Andrew Hush is an associate producer on ESPN Soccernet Press Pass, full episodes of which can be seen here.