Manchester United’s dominant victory over Club Brugge last week was a success for all involved - all except for Javier Hernandez that is, with the Mexican striker ultimately sealing his own fate with a sub-par performance.
His less than satisfactory night included a glaring miss from the six-yard box and a squandered penalty attempt. In the following days, it emerged that Louis van Gaal had given the forward his marching orders, declaring that he was free to leave the club.
Van Gaal had had enough, that much was obvious, though it poses the question of whether the Dutchman was still a touch too hasty in letting Hernandez go or whether the 27-year-old just didn't fit into his plans.
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It was evident from the start of Van Gaal's tenure that he did not trust the Mexico international. Last season, Hernandez started just one match in the Premier League before being shipped out to Real Madrid on loan, with this season appearing to emulate that mistrust, given Van Gaal's immediacy in letting the Mexican go, this time to Bayer Leverkusen in a permanent deal.
Upon arriving in Madrid on loan, Hernandez failed to get any sort of regular football, similarly to at United. Nevertheless, he managed to score more times than not when given the chance, retaining his image of being the ideal back-up striker guaranteed to score.
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Sir Alex Ferguson utilised little pea in this way precisely, and to great effect, while Van Gaal looks to have chosen Marouane Fellaini as United’s last-ditch plan B.
Perhaps it was Van Gaal’s lone striker formation that played a detrimental part in Hernandez's decline. In his previous years at United, the quick frontman has most often impressed while playing alongside a strike partner, such as in the 2010/11 season, when Hernandez forged a partnership with now-captain Wayne Rooney.
Rooney would drop deeper into pockets of space, while Hernandez would dart in behind. In a lone forward formation such as Van Gaal’s, there is not nearly as much support as Hernandez is used to.
This new Manchester United side didn't play to Hernandez’s strengths, but then again, nor is it particularly playing to anyone's strengths, which begs the question of why Van Gaal didn't consider playing Hernandez up top with Rooney, which in turn might have benefited the latter, who has endured a difficult start to the new campaign himself.
He might not have been the most emphatic of strikers, but goals were a guarantee which sounds all the more odd given United's current lack of goalscoring form.
The Red Devils are in discussions to sign 19-year-old Anthony Martial from Monaco for a quite astounding £39 million, though it remains to be seen whether the Frenchman will offer much more than what Hernandez was capable of if given the chance.
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