By Oliver Platt
Javier Hernandez is 24 years old now but he will always be Chicharito, the little pea. Like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the baby-faced assassin that went before him, there is an enduring positivity and humility to the Mexican that instantly endeared him to Manchester United supporters.
There is also the goals. Chicharito plundered 20 in his first season and added 12 more in 2011-12 when his match time was reduced. Given a consistent run of games and a reliable supply of passes and crosses, he guarantees them.
With regards to the latter requirement, United have not been in better shape since the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. The back post, in particular, is a favoured hunting ground for Chicharito and Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverley teed up simple but decisive headers that initiated and completed the Red Devils' comeback after they had fallen 2-0 behind against Braga on Tuesday evening.
Defensive questions continue to dog Sir Alex Ferguson but Chicharito, along with Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, was alive from the beginning. He would have scored another goal in the first half if not for an offside decision that drew irritated complaints from the United manager.
Ferguson was, needless to say, in a happier mood when asked about his striker. Or, more accurately, one of his four top-class forwards. Rarely is the 70-year-old short of an opinion but when it comes to deciding which combination of attackers is the most effective, he seems contentedly stumped.
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Rotation has become a necessity and for that reason Ferguson is privileged to have Chicharito and Welbeck. If the fame and celebrity of Premier League football has had any effect on them, they are yet to show it. They continue to put themselves at the service of the team and if the pair ever do feel any inner frustrations, they bottle them up and remain patient.
"Like I've always said, I'm enjoying it a lot here," Chicharito insisted. "When the gaffer gives me a chance, I need to do my best. If I scored it's good, it's easier for the team. It doesn't matter which position or which formation, as players we need to do all the things the gaffer says to us."
He even shook off a question regarding the hat-trick he might have had. "The most important thing here is the three points. Not who are the heroes or something like that." The situation is somewhat different across Manchester, where one imagines Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko might have decidedly more to say if they were forced to suffer a spell on the sidelines.
And therein lies the Guadalajara-born hitman's value. Whether waiting for his chance or grabbing it with both hands, Chicharito plays for the badge on the front of his red shirt and not the name on the back.