MANCHESTER UNITED 2
Hernandez 27, Hernandez 86
When Sir Alex Ferguson, last week, made comments regarding nurturing youth and the potential of his Manchester United side, they may have been aimed at Wayne Rooney – but it is clear Javier Hernandez was listening intently to his manager.
From the outset against Stoke City, Hernandez looked sharp and his continual movement was a real thorn in the side for Tony Pulis’ team. When the 22-year-old Mexican signed for United it was clear he had pace in abundance and could finish but what may have been in question was his physique and how he would cope with the English game. Chicharito put these fears firmly to be bed playing without fear, showing a willingness to pit himself against the most physical of opponents.
The finishes for both of his goals were top draw and show that he is a pure natural goalscorer – something which United have lacked in recent seasons. Hernandez was required to shift his body and his positioning, responding to movements in the box for both of his goals. Not only being present in the six yard box but being able to react faster than those around you is a true mark of a natural goalscorer. Seeing this in evidence twice in this encounter is what will have pleased Ferguson most. His partnership with Dimitar Berbatov looks to be flourishing as they combined continually in this encounter as in the first half against West Bromwich Albion. Hernandez looks to be the perfect foil for the Bulgarian as his willingness to play on the shoulder of the last defender, make runs and look for space in behind enables the Bulgarian to drop deep and affect the play without worrying about leading the line himself. This combination may serve United extremely well away from home as when the home side pushes forward, as Stoke did in the second half, there will be room for Hernandez to run into. When playing at Old Trafford there may not be as much space in behind so the young Mexican may have to adapt his game utilising his movement and awareness in the box. On the evidence of his two strikes against Stoke he is perfectly capable of this.
Another pleasing aspect for Ferguson from this encounter will be the performance of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. Back consistently playing games together, this was a real test for the pairing. The combination looked as strong as ever with Vidic putting in the kind of performance that so endeared him to the United faithful when first arriving on the scene. The Serbian met the majority of the Stoke’s long throws and was always challenging for the aerial ball on any of their set pieces giving a towering display against the considerable threat of the inform Kenwyne Jones. Vidic may have looked shaky in the midweek Champions League tie but with Ferdinand back alongside him he looked strong, composed and unbeatable in the air. If United can not only get Vidic and Ferdinand on the pitch together, but playing in this manner, then that is the starting point for which they can start to build their season.
The strength of this performance could again have been thrown away, however, with another individual error, this time from Paul Scholes, leading to conceding an equaliser. Sir Alex’s men have to rid these individual errors from their season to have any chance of silverware.
1 Van der Sar
2 Neville – 15 Vidic – 5 Ferdinand – 22 O’Shea
17 Nani – 24 Fletcher – 18 Scholes – 3 Evra
14 Hernandez – 9 Berbatov
46- 6 Brown on for 2 Neville
70 – 16 Carrick on for 22 O’Shea
87 – 26 Obertan on for 18 Scholes