The £1.2m Sir Alex Ferguson paid Leeds United for Eric Cantona way back in 1992 is widely regarded as the best deal ever negotiated in the Premier League. The shrewd Manchester United manager may now have hit the jackpot again with the £7m acquisition of Mexico striker Javier Hernandez, himself admitting that “On the back of his performances in South Africa, a lot of teams would have been after him and he would probably have cost us two or three times as much”. In addition to that, the club website received 50,000 new registrations from Mexico alone within 24 hours of announcing his signing from Chivas de Guadalajara in April ensuring that plenty of number 14 shirts will be bought by Mexicans this season.
Providing everything goes to plan, the 22 year old with the nickname of ‘El Chicharito’ – the little pea, is expected to don the famous red shirt for the first time at the Reliant Center in Houston against the MLS All-Stars. Ferguson told the media that “We’d like to use him in part of the game. One, because I know there’s a big Mexican population in Houston and secondly, we want to try and integrate him into the team as quickly as possible. But we want to see what he’s been doing physically over the past week because I don’t think it would be wise playing him without any physical preparation for this game.”
With more than 950,000 Mexican-Americans based in and around Houston, Chicharito’s debut for United is the only show in town. The MLS are expecting a 65,000 sell out and Sir Alex admits that he is mindful of the need to show them a first glimpse of their new hero. Hernandez arrived in Houston 24 hours ahead of his new team mates on Sunday to take part in an autograph session at an AT&T store in the city. His appearance led to more than 1,000 fans waiting outside to meet the new United striker who has also made the front page of the Houston Chronicle.
One player to whom Hernandez is no stranger is Nick Rimando, the goalkeeper who will oppose him in the All-Stars line up in Houston “He is a fantastic player and real feisty in the 18 yard box. I played against him last year for Real Salt Lake when he was at Chivas” he remembers “He’s very dynamic, loves to go forward and loves to get the ball over the top. He scores goals, scores a ton of goals, and that’s why Manchester United signed him.”
United end their pre season tour on Friday with a friendly against Guadalajara in which Hernandez will play 45 minutes for each team, then flies to Manchester with the United squad the following day. His parents and sister are all moving to England to help him settle but Hernandez appears to possess a strong determination to succeed despite admitting his move has taken him from the realms of fantasy.
He is still pinching himself at the prospect of being on the same pitch as players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes who he regards as legends. “These are people I would watch on television, that I would even play with them on PlayStation” he said. “I dreamt of one day being able to play with all of them and I’m going to try to learn from them the most I can. Besides wanting to do the best job I can, grow and learn plenty, I also want to add my little grain of sand because this is a team sport. I want to win a title. I want us to be a great team.”
The young man then continued to show his maturity by confessing “I should thank God for the opportunity. I always try to see pressure in a different way, more like motivation. There are millions of people in the world who would do anything to be in my position and have this opportunity. It’s an honour because I want to achieve big things. It’s a very nice challenge and hopefully I will be able to contribute. I will always try to enjoy it because sometimes we focus so much on the achievements and our dreams, and maybe we forget to enjoy it.”
Hernandez will wear the number 14 shirt with ‘Chicharito’ on his back at United, the nickname given to him because of the light green eyes he inherited from his father “It’s cool that a nickname that has been a family tradition is being known” he said “now I’m with United, hopefully we can get more people to know that family nickname.”
‘Chicharito’ is the third member of his family to play for Mexico in a World Cup. His grandfather Tomás Balcázar scored against France in the1954 finals, then his father Javier senior known as ‘El Chicharo’ – the pea, was a member of the Mexico squad in 1986. It would surely be stretching the imagination to it’s absolute limit if one was to suggest that young Hernandez may become a father to a boy born in Manchester who may one day also play in a World Cup – for England!
Are there too many expectations placed on Hernandez?