Javier Hernandez has exceeded everybody’s expectations this season, including those of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The United boss admitted recently that he thought it would take the Mexican striker at least a year to settle in at the club, develop physically and adapt to the English game.
And yet, nine months after Hernandez made his debut at Wembley in the Community Shield, he’s netted 20 goals and staked a solid claim for a regular place in the manager’s starting line-up.
Sir Alex has certainly found it difficult to leave him out. Since the beginning of March, Hernandez has started 11 of United’s 16 games (and scored in two of his three substitute appearances during the same period).
If we split the striker’s United career in two we get a better picture of the shift in how Hernandez’s fortunes have changed. In his first 21 United games (nine starts) he netted eight goals, with five coming from the bench. His subsequent 22 run-outs (15 starts) have yielded a further 11 strikes, with only three as a substitute.
Of course, one of Hernandez’s greatest qualities is the variety of goals he scores.
At heart, he’s a supreme goal poacher who’s lethal in and around the six-yard box; his finishing has often been likened to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s. But it’s also interesting to note that almost a third (six) of the Mexican’s goals have been scored with his head. That’s not bad for a man who stands just 5ft 9in tall.
He’s also netted five winners and opened the scoring on nine occasions (including his most recent goal, scored after just 37 seconds against Chelsea).
His most recent strike, after just 37 seconds against Chelsea, took his tally to the season to 20. It’s the first time a United player has reached that figure in his first season since Ruud van Nistelrooy arrived back in 2001.
Little wonder, then, that everybody – from Sir Alex Ferguson to Pele – has been signing Hernandez’s praises of late.
First 21 appearances
Last 22 appearances
How Hernandez scores
Right foot: 11
Left foot: 3
Results when Javier scores