By SPORTSMAIL REPORTER
Javier Hernandez has the perfect role models to help him keep his feet on the ground after a flying start to his Manchester United career.
A virtual unknown when he was unveiled by Sir Alex Ferguson 12 months ago, Hernandez has proved to be the buy of the season.
Twenty goals in his debut campaign helped Manchester United secure their record 19th league title and ease them into Saturday’s Champions League final clash with Barcelona at Wembley.
Getting ready for the big one: Hernandez (left) in training on Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s European Cup final
There is rumoured to be interest from Real Madrid, which is bound to trigger some interest from a Mexican, whose national hero Hugo Sanchez was worshipped during his own period at the Bernabeu.
However, the chances of Hernandez getting carried away are remote.
His strong religious conviction helps, as does the influence of father Javier Hernandez Gutierrez and grandfather Tomas Balcazar, both of whom were good enough to play for their country.
‘My father and grandfather have given me a lot of advice about my game,’ Hernandez told the official match programme.
‘They were also attacking players, so they have helped me a great deal. But they have helped me even more off the pitch because that is the most difficult part.
‘With young football players there is a lot of money and other things that can put you off balance.
‘We start at a very young age in this profession. I am only 22. But my family have made sure I have stayed down to earth. I am a person first before a footballer.
‘I don’t feel bigger than anybody, despite any goals, success or medals.’
Hernandez concurred with Sir Alex Ferguson’s initial view that his £7million capture from Chivas would be used sparingly this term. A freak goal in the Community Shield made the integration easier and whilst not prolific, Hernandez’s contributions until the turn of the year were enough to get him on the bench fairly regularly.
However, when his introduction for Wayne Rooney against Blackpool in January inspired a memorable comeback, Ferguson started to think Hernandez could not be ignored any longer.
What a season: Hernandez helped United to come back and beat Blackpool in a memorable match at Bloomfield Road in January
The goals started to mount. Crucially, Rooney also responded, clearly relishing Hernandez’s extreme pace and the additional space it provided against defences now on the back foot.
‘This first year has been marvellous,’ said Hernandez. ‘Nobody expected this. I never imagined that I would play this much and the goals I have scored are all really a consequence of that.
‘I don’t like talking about myself and don’t want to seem arrogant. But you will always see a player who exhausts himself on the pitch, who is always running.
‘There are good and bad matches in football but I have always given my best and I will never give up fighting and running.’
After virtually 12 months non-stop football and a Gold Cup campaign with Mexico to come, Ferguson has admitted he may be forced to give Hernandez a break rather than take him on United’s pre-season tour of North America as originally planned.
The amazing thing is he will go back home with a Premier League winner’s medal, and possibly one from the Champions League as well, with United guaranteed backing from the soccer-mad Mexicans.
‘I watched football from all over the world but the Champions League is the biggest club competition in Mexico,’ he said.
‘The best teams from all the leagues are in it. To experience it and play in the final is marvellous.’