Hernandez suffered a concussion during United’s summer trip to the United States which ruled him out of the early part of the season, and, such is the fast moving nature of the modern world, was barely mentioned in passing once the action resumed. The impressive performances of Danny Welbeck individually and United as whole also helped in that regard, for they ensured that the Mexican, despite his talents, was not missed. When Welbeck pulled up against Arsenal, however, the door opened for the fit-again Hernandez to return to Sir Alex Ferguson’s starting XI against Bolton and take his place in this vibrant young side.
The quick interchanges now dominating United’s build-up play could almost have been designed to benefit Hernandez. With such close-quarters passing prising open opposing defences on the edge of their own penalty area, and the last line of defence sprung with such regularity, Hernandez can expect to find himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper regularly. The unerring finishing that brought 20 goals in 45 games last season has evidently not diminished over the summer and the sheer mass of openings United create playing this way – 13 shots against Bolton although many more promising moments blocked by last-ditch tackles or lost through misplaced passes – mean Hernandez will have ample opportunity to match or even better last season’s total in this campaign.
United’s play this season has been characterised by its sheer inventiveness. The amount of flicks, tricks, lay-offs, stopovers and dummies has bordered on the ridiculous at times, but has thus far stayed on the sublime side of the line. It is a style matched by Hernandez’s unique finishing, witnessed last season with the twisting, inside-out header against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium, or the flicked goal against the same opposition at Old Trafford. That latter strike also put United three points clear at the top of the Premier League table, suggesting that Hernandez’s goals do not just come often, but they also come at important times, much like the second goal of his Britannia double in October 2010, an 86th minute effort that gave the visitors victory.
With competition for starting places at Old Trafford so intense that Dimitar Berbatov, last season’s top scorer, is consigned to the substitutes’ bench, Hernandez cannot be certain of starting every game, not least because of the promising performances of Welbeck throughout his absence. Now fit, however, Hernandez reasserted in 90 minutes against Bolton that he has a significant role to play in the new-look Manchester United presented by Ferguson. A natural poacher of goals, an all-round talent and with the speed to trouble any defender, Hernandez deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the brightest stars of the season so far.