It is a rare for a country to pile its World Cup hopes on a player who rarely features for his club side, but that is the case with Mexico and Javier Hernández. Affectionately known as “Chicharito” (little pea), the striker is closing in on becoming his country’s record goalscorer yet he is fourth choice for Manchester United behind Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck.
Under previous manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Chicharito was an impact player, brought on late in the game to find gaps in tired defenses. Now working under David Moyes, he is a substitute at best and sometimes does not even make the bench. Yet, when he does feature, he scores. Just ask Chelsea. His goal per minutes average for United is 159.4 in all competitions. That strike rate is better than the ones enjoyed by the above-mentioned attackers.
Contrast Chicharito’s lack of playing time at Old Trafford with that of his performances for Mexico. Although the Latin Americans are relatively unfancied to go far at the Brazil World Cup, having got there via the play-off route, in Chicharito Mexico has a striker who can mix it with best. The fact he has scored against heavyweights like Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Holland, France and Italy is proof. He now has an impressive 35 goals in 57 matches. Chicharito is third on Mexico’s all-time scorer charts with namesake Luis Hernández. Chicharito is just four behind Cuauhtémoc Blanco’s 39 and Jared Borgetti’s 46.
Of course, Chicharito has had his chances to leave United. This week, Serie A side Internazionale were linked with the player and he reportedly turned down a loan move to Tottenham Hotspur in January, demonstrating unwavering loyalty to his employers reminiscent of former United striker, Ole Gunnar Solskjær. The Norwegian rejected a permanent move to Spurs in the late 90s and then came of the bench to net the last-minute winner in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich. To say United benefited from Solskjær’s loyalty would be putting it mildly.
Chicharito has not tasted that level of glory at club level yet, but while his failure to nail a place in United’s first team has stayed with him since he joined from Guadalajara in 2010, it has had no bearing on his Mexico career. He is the first name on the team sheet and is closing in on the all-time goal record as a result.
Frenchman Just Fontaine famously scored 13 goals in the 1958 World Cup – a record that still stands to today. Although more recent winners of the Golden Boots have tended to score less than half of that figure, a glut of goals from the little Mexican will see him closing in on Borgetti’s record. The only worry for Chicharito is the knee injury picked up in Mexico’s recent draw with Nigeria, which will require plenty of treatment and time on the sidelines.. For once, the United striker will be grateful for a place on the bench.
World Cup Preview is a daily series providing commentary and analysis of the teams and players participating in this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd