During the World Cup, you never knew quite what to expect from Javier Hernández. The only footage I saw of him beforehand, and indeed many other fans can relate, was probably one of those compilation videos on YouTube. “He looks a natural goalscorer,” says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (he knows a thing or two about goalscorers, and he’s right, despite the lack of game time in South Africa. He started all three group games on the bench, yet dazzled with a cameo against France which not only burst his team into life, but also included a goal of his own in a deserved 2-0 victory.
Then, against Maradona’s marching men in the second round, he was the stand-out performer in a rather disappointing Mexican performance in which they lost 3-1, and it was ‘Chicarito’ who found himself on the score-sheet again, albeit in a losing cause. This was further proof of the youngster’s talent and prowess, and proved that his goal against France was no fluke. And such was the quality of the goal, it is difficult not to get too excited. “He looks really sharp,” says Darren Fletcher. “He’s young, sharp and looks really hungry. He scored a couple of great goals at the World Cup and I think he’ll be a good addition.”
And with the new season looming large, it will be interesting to see just how Hernandez adapts to the English-game. Many of United’s exports from America have come and gone, failing to hit the heights that they have managed reached elsewhere. Solskjaer, the man in charge of nurturing the club’s stars of tomorrow, also believes that United’s latest acquisition may not settle as quickly as he’d like and has, somewhat understandably, compared him with one of those ‘exports’ who failed to get to grips with the faster game: “There are not many who can handle the tempo straight away in England so he might need some time. But he has great attributes. There are similarities with Javier and Diego Forlan with both being two-footed and quick feet. Size-wise they are similar and both know where the goal is.”
And you can envisage Hernandez making a similar impact to that of Solksjaer’s, whether that’s starting or coming off the bench, something that can help alleviate United’s title charge this season. “He looks very sharp in the box,” added Solskjaer glowingly. “He is quick and can finish with both feet. I like his attitude for finding space. He makes good runs for midfielders to thread the ball through. He is direct in his running.” Such words of wisdom from a fans’ favourite and club legend is more reason to feel confident that Javier Hernandez can become the natural goalscorer that United were looking for to help ease the burden that is currently all on Wayne Rooney.
Just who was Uruguay’s no.10 who took the 2010 World Cup by storm? Is it not Diego Forlan, the forward who failed to cut it at Manchester United? Is it not the player, who, fascinatingly took a mammoth 27 games to end a goal-drought spanning eight months while at the club? Is it not the player once dubbed ‘Diego Forlorn’ by the British media?
There are little good memories for Diego Forlan. A two-year long story that will certainly be cut short to about two minutes when told to the Grandchildren. Those years were dark, Forlan failed to make the impact that he had made on Argentinian football, where his exceptional form for Independiente had the whole of Europe on his tail. Why he could not replicate his deadly form into the Premier League is debatable, although you would argue that he simply could not settle and adapt to the fast, English game which may go somewhere to explaining his future successes in Spain.
Six years on, we saw a matured Diego Forlan in the possession of a captain’s armband and the expectation of a nation on his shoulders. He led from the front, inspired his team to success in South Africa that England can only dream of. What proved elusive for 28 other teams, reaching the semi-finals is in itself an achievement for a country that only just scraped through qualifying. And it was all because of chief tormentor Diego. Sure, his partner in crime Luis Suarez deserves a little credit for his role as goalscorer and emergency goalkeeper in this tournament, but Forlan was the stand out performer. If he wasn’t scoring goals, he was certainly creating them.
Off the pitch, Forlan is still quite the compelling character he is on it. His entire first paycheck at United went towards an operation for his sister who was on the brink of death. Forlan was just 12 years of age when she had been involved in a car crash which had killed her boyfriend instantly, and from then on Forlan vowed to do whatever he could do, that was get into football and become a superstar – which he has done. That is admirable.
And on the field, he continues to torment defences alike. In Uruguay’s third place play-off against Germany, one could not help supporting him rather than the two teams. You feel his sumptuous volley which had put his side 2-1 up had summed up his magnificent World Cup, just how he set the tournament alight. You can’t help but admire Forlan, whose remarkable reincarnation in the game has been nothing short of inspirational. He has now achieved greatness and well done to him.
After a blistering season at Old Trafford last time around the World Cup 2010 was supposed to be an opportunity for Wayne Rooney to truly shine on the international stage. Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen for the talented striker and now he has to pick himself up for next season with Manchester United.
What went wrong? I have no idea to be brutally honest, the Rooney we watched last season, almost single-handedly winning games for United and in free-scoring mood, just didn’t turn up. He didn’t look match fit and his first touch seemed to have deserted him. The 24-year-old wasn’t alone in his struggles, Portugal’s Cristinao Ronaldo found it hard to get into games, Fernando Torres has disappointed and Kaka has shown glimpses of top-form but no more than that. England keeper David James has since suggested that Rooney was simply marked out of the game, there could well be some truth in that as it does appear that if you stop Rooney you stop England and I would imagine every opposition manager paid special attention as to how to cope with Wayne Rooney. However, he is used to plenty of attention from defenders in the Premier League (and from better players than the Algerians, Slovenians, Americans and even the Germans) and there could be more to it than that.
Rooney’s confidence will have taken a bit of a battering after the World Cup, I think that is pretty much a certainty. The whole team were booed after their performance against Algeria and slated following their exit in the press, forward’s rely on confidence and it could take him a while to recover.
Another problem is the expectation that was placed on his shoulders before the tournament, with some world cup betting pundits suggesting he could take storm the tournament like a Maradona or a Pele and England’s ambitions being basically placed on his shoulders. It will have been painful for Rooney to fail so spectacularly, and in truth there is no other way to say it, but we all know how good he can be.
Sir Alex Ferguson is an exceptional man-manager and I’m sure he has already had plenty of contact with Rooney to reassure him and boost his confidence. In time, I’m sure the public will forgive Rooney as in truth it simply wasn’t his fault – if he wasn’t fully fit he shouldn’t have played, or should have been rested in a group game. Rooney was by no means the only man at fault for the Three Lions, basically no one had a good tournament (David James the exception maybe?) and it was painfully obvious the system just wasn’t working – yet Fabio Capello stuck with it.
What do other people think, am I over-analysing the situation and will be return at the top of his game in August? I hope so, we’ve seen others (Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard) disappoint for their country and then impress for their club and there is no reason why Rooney should be any different. The problems with England went way beyond the squad itself and at United there is an exceptional (best in the world maybe) managerial and coaching set-up so fingers crossed the Rooney we see at the start of the new campaign will be as good as he was last season.
By Gareth Freeman