Tom Marshall: Chicharito faces renewed test for club and country

Javier Hernandez faces the prospect of fighting his way into central roles for the Mexican national team and Manchester United.
Real Sociedad’s Carlos Vela and Villarreal’s Giovani Dos Santos have already showed signs over the last few days that they are set to make their biggest impact yet on La Liga this season, with both scoring in the opening round of fixtures.

But for Manchester United striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez the opposite has been true since the summer break, with his hamstring injury keeping him out of the English team’s Community Shield win over Wigan and Saturday’s 4-1 victory against Swansea.

Even when he does return from what was reported as a minor injury, 25-year-old Hernandez faces mounting challenges both for Manchester United and Mexico.

The immediate concern for the Mexican national team are the crucial qualifiers against Honduras on Sept. 6 and then the United States in Columbus, Ohio on Sept. 10. El Tri is currently in third place in the CONCACAF hexagonal and can’t afford to put in another couple of performances of the standard we have seen so far in this phase of World Cup qualifying.

Under normal circumstances, Chicharito would be a shoe-in to start both games, but he got no minutes in United’s preseason and with the club’s two games before the international break against Chelsea at home and Liverpool away, it’s unlikely David Moyes will call on him, especially as a starter.

Quite frankly, it’d be a risk for Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre to start a player that has featured so little, even one with Hernandez’s record of 35 goals in 53 matches for Mexico.

Added to that, Santos Laguna’s Oribe Peralta is on fire in the Liga MX and netted twice in El Tri’s fine 4-1 victory over Ivory Coast.  So far this season, the Olympic gold medal winner has seven goals in just fives games.

Of course, you’d want even a half-fit Chicharito on the bench for those games and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he popped up with a crucial goal against either Los Catrachos or the Stars and Stripes.

Becoming a regular for Manchester United is the more difficult task for Chicharito as he enters what could be the defining season for the Mexican at the storied club.

An additional problem for Chicharito is how Moyes seems to be setting up his team this season, with only one out-and-out striker, two wingers that can cut inside and an attacking midfielder.

Robin Van Persie is arguably in the top five world strikers and Chicharito is unlikely to knock him out of that starting position. On top of that, if Wayne Rooney stays at the club he is line to replace the Dutchman as the team’s No. 9 if Van Persie gets injured. After that, it would be a battle between Danny Welbeck and Hernandez.

Unlike Welbeck, Hernandez only plays one position as a central striker and gets the vast majority of goals from inside the penalty area.

It looks like an uphill struggle.

But aside from his goal-scoring ability, perhaps Hernandez’s best feature is his character and work ethic. And at least if his agent is to be believed, Chicharito remains as defiant and determined as ever to earn that starting spot.

“Manchester United is his challenge,” Eduardo Hernandez is quoted as saying in the Daily Mail. “It has nothing to do with money. He wants to play and get a starting spot at United. He knows that he is in a very competitive team and that he must fight everyday for his place, from the dressing room to the training field.”

Added the agent: “But he is not afraid. He told me he is more motivated than ever.”

Despite the obstacles, it’d be a brave person who would bet against Chicharito overcoming them.