By Wayne Veysey | Chief correspondent
Javier Hernandez is in advanced talks with Manchester United about signing a new contract, Goal.com UK can reveal.
The Premier League leaders are ready to reward ‘Chicharito’ with an improved five-year deal that will tie him to the club until 2016.
Hernandez is expected to negotiate a considerable hike on his current salary, which is believed to be worth around £40,000-a-week, and put pen to paper by the end of the season.
There has been interest in the striker from Real Madrid, triggered by Karim Benzema's slump in form earlier in the season plus the long-term injury to Gonzalo Higuain, and Jose Mourinho is known to be a big admirer.
His current agreement was due to be reviewed at the end of his debut season, although interest from the Spanish giants has led United to move faster and protect their investment.
Hernandez has an impressive strike-rate at Old Trafford since his switch from Mexican club Chivas last summer for an initial fee of around £8 million.
He has scored 10 Premier League goals in 20 appearances, only nine of which have been starts, and netted 13 goals in all competitions for Sir Alex Ferguson’s team to put him behind only Dimitar Berbatov in the club’s leading scorers list this season.
“Chicharito has opened discussions with the club and a contract should be signed by the end of the season,” a source told Goal.com UK. “He has been told he is a big part of the club’s future plans, he is happy in Manchester and wants to extend his stay.”
Red hot | Hernandez is close to agreeing a new five-year contract at Manchester United
Hernandez, whose nickname Chicharito means ‘little pea’ in Spanish, has been on a strength building programme devised by United’s fitness staff to build up his physique following concerns among the coaching staff earlier in the season that he was too lightweight for the Premier League.
Old Trafford officials have been impressed by the way he has settled in at the club although they had been convinced there would be few problems on that score when they signed him, as Hernandez speaks good English and is doing a degree in business administration in his spare time.
The Mexican is not the only United striker in discussions with the club about a new deal.
Berbatov, who is out of contract at the end of next season, is close to agreeing a three-year agreement.
It is not United’s policy to hand players over 30 contracts of longer than a year, with the exception of goalkeepers, but the Bulgarian, who reached that landmark in January, will become a rare exception within the next few months.
United have been working tirelessly behind the scenes in recent months to protect themselves from predators by extending the contracts of senior players.
Hernandez and Berbatov are set to follow in the footsteps of Patrice Evra, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs, who have all signed new deals in the last month.