The sight of Javier Hernandez getting ready to enter the pitch on Sunday for Manchester United at Anfield was a welcome boost for both the player and the Mexican national team.
Stories in the British press suggested that Chicharito wouldn’t make the game, but the Guadalajara native looked sharp in the 17 minutes he was on the field, threading a through-pass to Robin van Persie and being generally busy.
For Mexico coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre, Hernandez’s return does pose the question of how he should be used in Friday’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Honduras and next Tuesday’s game against the United States.
Before he appeared for Manchester United this weekend, it seemed that in-form Santos Laguna striker Oribe Peralta would be the natural starter for El Tri, with his two-goal performance against Ivory Coast last month, and five goals in six games so far this season for his club side.
Despite that, Chepo must be tempted to throw in Hernandez even though he only has 17 minutes playing time under his belt since June’s Confederations Cup.
Chicharito’s record of 35 goals in 53 appearances for Mexico is outstanding and with Giovani Dos Santos, Javier Aquino, Christian Gimenez and Angel Reyna all on form, the lethal former Chivas player could well be in his element as the ultimate poacher.
That’s not taking anything away from Peralta, but the 29-year-old has only six goals in 16 games for the full Mexican national team and just two of those have come in competitive matches, even though there is a strong argument that the Olympic gold medal winning contributes more than Hernandez to overall play.
A lot will depend on how Hernandez looks in training in preparation for Honduras, but Mexico would certainly benefit hugely from having him in at the start of the game against the USA. El Tri will likely be playing slightly more on the counterattack and Chicharito’s speed and movement is at its most effective when he has more space to maneuver.
The return of Peralta and Hernandez to the same squad also adds the possibility of both starting together, something that Chepo has seemingly been intent on doing ever since that August 2012 loss to the United States in the Estadio Azteca.
Before that watershed game, Hernandez had played as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but the lack of creativity and ideas that Mexico produced seems to have made Chepo change his mind towards two strikers. In four of the next five competitive Mexico games, Hernandez and Peralta started together.
The last of those matches was in February’s 0-0 home draw against Jamaica and since then Peralta and Hernandez have not featured in the same squad, largely due to Peralta’s injury problems.
On paper, the Peralta/Hernandez combination is deadly, but on the field the chemistry hasn’t been there and with so few games playing together there hasn’t been time for the duo to gel.
Now is probably not the time to continue the experiment, especially with so many Mexican wingers and attacking midfielders playing well at the moment. However, with Mexico yet to score in 270 minutes in the Estadio Azteca in 2013, it wouldn’t be surprising if Chepo did decide the Hernandez/Peralta partnership is the way forward against Honduras on Friday.