The Chicharito Conundrum

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez Balcazar has established himself as a firm fan favourite since joining United in July 2010. He has become known for his important goals and his natural ability to find the back of the net. His happy demeanour and poacher’s ability has led to numerous comparison with one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United’s “baby faced assassin” or “super sub” of the Sir Alex Ferguson generation.

However the nickname of “super sub” doesn’t seem to be growing on Chicharito and he seems to be growing frustrated with his lack of playing time at United. This naturally leads to the question, where does the little pea’s future lie?

Chicharito announced himself immediately to United fans, having netted in friendly games he went on the score in his first competitive game for United in the 2010 Community Shield game against Chelsea. A goal memorable also in the fact that Chicharito scored it by kicking the ball in to his own face as he fell. Nonetheless this was the start, albeit slightly comical, of what would be a quick rise to prominence within United. His successful first season topped off by winning the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award for the 2010-2011 season. This all came off the back of 45 appearances in which Chicharito scored 20 goals.

The 2011-2012 had an eventful beginning for the Mexican front man. After returning from the CONCACAF Gold Cup Chicharito suffered concussion as a result of being struck on the head by a ball during training. Given a previous issue with headaches and neurological issues Chicharito took no further part in United’s pre-season, the Community Shield or the Premier League curtain raiser against West Brom. Upon his return, however, Chicharito picked up where he had left off. A vital equaliser against Liverpool in a 1-1 draw was a prominent reminder of the diminutive Mexican’s abilities. In October of this season Chicharito put pen to paper on a new contract which would tie him to United until 2016, much to the delight of the United faithful. By the end of the season Chicharito had clocked up 36 appearances, scoring 12 goals. Despite playing fewer games than the previous season, injuries could largely explain this. Amongst his contract signing and continued affinity with the United support Chicharito still wasn’t a starting choice for United and would start games for a couple of weeks to then be a sub in following weeks.

The 2012-2013 season saw a more settled start for Chicharito with no unexpected injuries or prolonged international absence. There was however one key difference with this season for Chicharito, United had invested in some new striking power. After pulling off one of the biggest coups of the transfer market United completed the £24million signing of Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie. Van Persie was seen as the new addition to the United attack that could help fire them to the Premier League title and avenge Manchester City’s league win on goal difference the previous season. One thing was for sure, United hadn’t signed one of the world’s best strikers to have him on the bench. Naturally this would change Chicharito’s position within the first team. Despite Van Persie’s addition to the squad Chicharito did still manage 36 appearances in all competitions, scoring a healthy 18 goals in the process. However, it was clear that he was still not established as a regular starter for United with his place in the team being unpredictable from week to week. Chicharito had always had a fantastic manner since joining United, he came across as a humble, hard working player with a great attitude regardless of his selection unpredictability. During the course of this campaign (and the previous one) various rumours were floating around which stated that some big European clubs were courting the signature of United’s Mexican star. These were dismissed by Chicharito’s agent on a number of occasions whilst stating that his client was happy at the Old Trafford outfit.

The start of the current campaign brought some of the biggest change at United in the last three decades, Sir Alex Ferguson had retired at the end of the 2012-2013 season and David Moyes had now taken the reigns at United. One of the biggest acts in the new manager’s early days at United was to keep hold of Wayne Rooney, despite constant rumours regarding his future after Chelsea had lodged two bids for the apparently unhappy England star. David Moyes insisted that Rooney was vital to his plans and to Manchester United. Therefore, with Robin Van Persie having become a true fan favourite and star performer at the club and Wayne Rooney being put back as a central figure in United’s setup it became even more difficult to see where Hernandez fitted in to the United first team. Rumours regarding the Chicharito’s future continued to rumble over the summer of 2013, but it was always expected that he would remain an important player at United. With the new league campaign 11 games old and the Champions League group stages well under way it is clear that David Moyes has a preference for using Van Persie and Rooney when they are fit and available. This is a decision I think is fully justified, in Rooney and Van Persie United possess two of the best attackers in the world. They are a pairing that should be given every opportunity to flourish and develop as they have the ability to be devastating, early signs this season prove that they are undeniably two of the key men for United. As a result it is widely expected that Chicharito’s playing time will be limited and perhaps now he has decided he doesn’t want to be United’s next Solskjaer.

On the 3rd of November Chicharito chose to “retweet” a story from Sky Sports on his Twitter account. The story concerned quotes from his Mexican compatriot Carlos Vela in which he stated that he felt “if he (Chicharito) doesn’t play regularly he will need to think about leaving”. Obviously these words didn’t come from Chicharito himself but his decision to draw attention to this story via social media speaks volumes. I feel that his decision to “retweet” this story is unprofessional and ill-advised. It seems out of character for a player who has always shown a great attitude. However, I don’t think Chicharito would ever have done this under Sir Alex Ferguson, nor would he have got away with it. To me, it publicly undermines the manager. The manager picks the team and using social media to try and gain leverage on this is extremely poor. If Chicharito has any issue it should be addressed within the club not published on Twitter. I also think that Chicharito will find himself increasingly used from the bench and in cup games with Rooney and Van Persie playing so well together. This is completely justified, Chicharito’s all round game simply isn’t good enough to start week in, week out. He is a natural goal scorer and that is a valuable asset to any club, but he simply doesn’t have the ability to impact games the way Van Persie and Rooney can. Would he have scored the volley Van Persie did against Aston Villa last season? Would he have been able to play the ball to Van Persie, for that volley against Villa, the way Rooney did? No is the answer on both accounts.

I have always liked Chicharito and he is a great asset to the club. However, if he wants to start games every week and isn’t happy with his status at United I think there is an issue afoot. The situation with Chicharito won’t change any time this season unless a long term injury to Van Persie or Rooney was to happen and even then he would probably share that burden with Danny Welbeck. Like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Chicharito has a decision to make. Does he leave the best club in the world, where he gets ample game time and scores important goals or does he move to a lesser club, where he has a reputation to earn all over again, to start every week. I can fully understand why he would want to play every game, every player should want to, but there is only one way to go after you leave United and that’s down.

About Philip 5 Articles
Lifelong United supporter. Aspiring football writer. Unparalleled Cantona appreciator. Follow me on twitter @LeKingsCollar.

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