As he seeks to get his career back on track, it has long appeared likely that Javier “Chicharito” Hernández would be playing away from both Real Madrid and Manchester United next season. However, fresh speculation suggests he may yet return to Old Trafford and be handed a chance to make a mark under Louis van Gaal.
Having seldom featured in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season or David Moyes’ only campaign in charge, Hernández’s Manchester United career looked to be over when Van Gaal allowed him to leave for Real Madrid on loan this term. Yet, according to the Daily Express, rather than be immediately sold on by United, the Mexico international has been earmarked as a replacement for Radamel Falcao.
There is some rationale behind the rumor. Falcao, who effectively replaced Hernández and Arsenal signing Danny Welbeck when arriving on loan from Monaco on the final day of last summer’s transfer window, has yet to excel in a Manchester United shirt. With just four Premier League goals this season, doubts persist about whether the 29-year-old will be able to get back to his world-class best after two serious knee injuries in his career. And given that, as things stand, United will have to pay £43 million to make the transfer permanent, it remains highly doubtful that he will still be at Old Trafford beyond the summer.
And the setup at United now suits Hernández better than in the previous two seasons. Van Gaal has opted for two strikers throughout the season, a formation in which Hernández’s pace off the shoulders of the last defenders and poaching capabilities could better come to the fore than in a single-striker system.
Yet, despite those factors, a future at Old Trafford remains unlikely for the player who so endeared himself to United fans during his first couple of seasons at the Premier League giants. The club has shown that it is prepared to spend big money to bring the world’s leading players to the club in the past 18 months, and, even were Falcao not to stay, a high-profile replacement could well be sought. Van Gaal had a look at Hernández in pre-season and notably in United’s disastrous 4-0 defeat to MK Dons in the Capital One Cup, and was clearly not won over by what he witnessed. It’s difficult to imagine the Dutchman having a change of thought. And given that Hernández will be entering the final year of his contract this summer, his stay would also have to, in all probability, be followed by a new contract.
Hernández has done little at Real Madrid to alter Van Gaal’s opinion. While he described the move to the club he supported as a boy as a "dream come true," it has been a hugely frustrating experience. Hernández has started just once in La Liga and has seen just 36 minutes of action in all competitions in 2015. The chances that Real Madrid will make his move permanent are close to non-existent.
But from Hernández’s perspective, too, there is a sense that he would benefit hugely from a fresh start. He has himself made it clear that he will seek assurances over a regular starting role wherever he ends up next season. Those guarantees are unlikely to be forthcoming at either the Bernabeu or Old Trafford.
And there appear several attractive clubs who could provide it. Premier League teams Tottenham and West Ham have been linked, while Lazio and Roma have been mooted as suitors in Italy. While he could feasibly play a useful role at Manchester United next season, and likely could have this season, it remains probable that Hernández will be attempting to rediscover his sharpness elsewhere.