Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Javier Hernandez a hit for Manchester United

Javier Hernandez was at pains to point out to his team-mates yesterday that the goal he had scored had gone in via a deflection off his mouth.

He is too young to know that when it comes to making your name at Manchester United, a generous helping of luck can be a career-saver in the event of a momentary lack of composure in front of goal.

The second United goal for the 22-year-old Mexican striker, signed last season, was the stand-out moment of a game even though his side's third goal from Dimitar Berbatov was much more elegant in its execution. Hernandez, aka ‘Chicharito’, aka ‘the little pea’ — surely the first player in the English top flight to glory in a pulse crop-based nickname — demonstrated he has the potential to be an Old Trafford favourite.

The Community Shield has historically been the stage for the most successful English clubs to parade new players and without the famous new faces the afternoon can feel a little pointless. In the absence of any such player, yesterday belonged to Hernandez, a smiling, well-disposed looking individual for whom, by virtue of the club he has signed for, there are the usual high expectations.

Plenty of good players have fallen short of the mark at United, including Diego Forlan, the best player at this summer's World Cup finals, as well as Michael Owen who started the game yesterday and Berbatov himself.

Presented with a perfect cross from Antonio Valencia, who scored United’s first-half opener, in the 76th minute it seemed as if Hernandez might have blown his chance, slipping as he hit the ball which struck him in the face and was re-directed into the goal.

You need a slice of good fortune and Hernandez certainly had that. He invited all his team-mates to check out the post-match replays of his goal on the big screen to see just how lucky he had been. But he showed enough in other areas of his second half performance to suggest that if he continues to get the breaks he has the potential to be a significant United player.

Replacements for Wayne Rooney and Owen at half-time, the Hernandez and Berbatov axis worked well. Berbatov will like Hernandez because the Mexican does all the running expected of him and most of that expected of Berbatov as well leaving the latter to swan around in the centre to take the kind of chance that presented itself for the third goal.

As a guide to the season ahead, the Community Shield is scarcely more instructive than a brief glimpse through an open door especially when, as was the case yesterday, the two managers made 11 substitutions between them. Nevertheless Carlo Ancelotti looked as anxious as ever and his team roused themselves in the last ten minutes, especially after Salomon Kalou had scored to make the score 2-1.

The two big powers of English football look as robust as ever although not radically different to last season. They have the two strongest squads in the Premier League. Both sets of players have great experience. And both will need to replace key players at some point in the future but you get the sense that the famous names that have sustained both clubs' success for so long are good for at least another season.

For United it looks as if Sir Alex Ferguson will, in a large part, have to rely yet again on the golden oldies like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, the latter of whom was outstanding for 80 minutes yesterday. Installed as captain for the afternoon, and with a new contract, Nemanja Vidic was excellent alongside first Jonny Evans and later Chris Smalling.

The same patterns are there for Chelsea too. A midfield built around Frank Lampard and the returning Michael Essien as well as Ramires, the Brazilian coming from Benfica. Didier Drogba, a second half substitute, John Terry and Nicolas Anelka will be crucial.

As in last season you can assume the title race will be a case of which of these two holds it together longest.

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