Watching Javier Hernandez for Manchester United on Saturday was as if time had been rewound back to 2012.
The Mexican international showed little sign of rustiness in his first Premier League start of 2014, and he had a direct hand in two of the Red Devils’ goals.
“Chicharito” burst past the last Newcastle defender for Juan Mata’s second goal and resisted the urge to go for glory and shoot from a tight angle, instead delicately stroking the ball into the Spaniard’s path for a simple finish.
Hernandez’s goal in the 75th was classic Chicharito, predicting a near post cross and creeping in front of the flat-footed Newcastle defense to finish off Shinji Kagawa’s low ball first-time.
Aside from the direct involvement in the goals, the fact Chicharito played as the team’s only central forward also helped Manchester United in general. The Mexican stretched Newcastle at the back with his movement and played off the last defender, leaving room for Mata, Kagawa and Adnan Januzaj to find space and create.
It was a timely reminder to both club manager David Moyes and Mexico coach Miguel Herrera of just what the former Chivas player can offer.
Hernandez’s confidence seemed to be back and he looked to be having fun. It was the first time in a while you could say that about the 25-year-old.
“Why do we fall? To learn... Why do we get up? To succeed! Good win today!” was the striker’s reaction on his Instagram account, marking a welcome break from the recent cryptic messages he has posted.
But he wasn’t the only Mexican striker proving a point this weekend, with competition for World Cup spots heating up and only a little over two months until the tournament kicks off.
Alan Pulido and Raul Jimenez impressed together last Wednesday in the second half of Mexico’s 2-2 draw against the United States.
Over the weekend, they did so again for their club sides.
Pulido scored a fine opening goal for Tigres and was a constant threat to Atlante with his runs and pace, capping off the performance with a second goal from the penalty spot.
Jimenez scored possibly the best goal of the weekend in Mexico, pulling off the last defender, chesting the ball under control and somehow contorting his body and firing a volley inside Jesus Corona’s near post.
Not many have the ability to produce such moments and it was reminiscent in some ways of Jimenez’s effort from nothing against Panama in World Cup qualifying.
Finally, Oribe Peralta was also among the goals, heading in at the second attempt to give Santos Laguna a late equalizer against Monterrey.
The odd Mexican striker out was Giovani Dos Santos, who has a hamstring injury and for whom a return date has not been forthcoming from Villarreal.
Others are certainly doing their bit to take advantage.