Eric Gomez: Opportunity knocks once more for Javier Hernandez

The Mexico international has a chance to move up in the world's most cluttered offensive depth chart, as Rooney's injury puts him in prime position, writes's Eric Gomez.
Behind the ever-present smile, the bubbly attitude and the almost annoying aura of positivity that Javier Hernandez seems to always be displaying, we can make a more than fair assumption that all the transfer talk, roster turnover and press speculation in the past few weeks has Chicharito more than a little worried.

At merely 24 years of age, Hernandez has gone from toast of Manchester to an also-ran struggling to gain minutes behind the likes of Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney, and yes, Robin van Persie. The wild rollercoaster ride has been a harsh introduction to the rigors of top-shelf European club football: Produce your best form all the time or find yourself on the bench...or searching for a new job.

While a sizable amount of press and fans following Manchester United reckoned that a change of scenery would be best for the Mexican international following Van Persie's arrival, Hernandez clings to the idea that fighting for minutes in one of the world's most storied clubs will pay dividends.

Just two matches into the season, it looks like his gamble will pay off.

Wayne Rooney suffered a nasty gash to this thigh that will keep him off the pitch for at least a month according to doctors, giving Sir Alex Ferguson one less high-priced toy to play with. The tactical flexibility offered by Rooney will be sorely missed by United, forcing Fergie to shuffle his pieces and potential strategies for the upcoming Premiership and Champions League (group play starts on Sept. 18) matches.

That stretch is crucial for Hernandez's future with Manchester United, if only because he is assured a larger share of minutes than he would have had with a healthy Rooney still featuring. It is then imperative for Hernandez to snap out of the summer funk that has carried over into the beginning of the 2012-13 season, most evident to those of us who saw him struggle for 90 minutes against the United States earlier this month at the Estadio Azteca.

After scoring 20 goals over all competitions in his debut season with United, Hernandez has steadily fallen off the center of attention, becoming a fringe player in one of the most stacked offensive units in the world. In Van Persie, Rooney, Welbeck and even Dimitar Berbatov, Hernandez has to wade through four national teamers every day in order to eventually crack a starting eleven. However, Chicharito is well aware that he needs to display some of that 2010-11 form that made him into a Manchester media darling.

"There is competition for places but you always have that," Hernandez told The Mirror recently. "I had that in youth teams when I was growing up and we have it here now because you need a big squad of players," notes Chicharito, who even at Chivas had to overcome established players such as Omar Bravo, Jared Borgetti, Alberto Medina and Carlos Ochoa before blossoming into the player that made the vaunted European jump.

Surely Ferguson is looking to the upcoming Southampton and Wigan Athletic matches to give Hernandez the necessary minutes to get back into form. Whether he does so supporting Van Persie or alongside Welbeck remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: the Mexican striker needs to make his presence felt on the scoreline and hurl himself back into the manager and the press' eye for later consideration.

Even then, it seems almost irresponsible to think that Hernandez is auditioning for his own job just weeks into the Premier League season. It's common knowledge that United wants to push itself back into the fold of Europe's top teams following a disastrous Champions League/Europa League campaign, coupled with a domestic run that fizzled and left rival Manchester City hoisting its first league title since 1968.

This is not the last opportunity Hernandez will get, with or without injuries or suspensions to others. Ferguson needs all the firepower in the world to compete with the Blues and the Citizens at home as well as the Merengues and Culés abroad. This is, however, a great chance to secure bigger minutes in the future for a player whose biggest virtue is that of scoring goals in tight situations.

If that doesn't happen for Hernandez this season, we might very well see him this time next year smiling and talking highly of his situation, his manager and his teammates.

It just won't be at Old Trafford.

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