The Mexican striker has been in unstoppable form from the bench recently, and surely must be line for a starting place. But how do you fit him in Manchester United’s line-up?
Javier Hernandez match-winning turn against Aston Villa at the weekend took him to four goals in six appearances in the league this year, with a further goal created by his shot that ricocheted in off Ron Vlaar for United’s equaliser. The Mexican is currently scoring a goal for every 58.8 minutes on the pitch, a ratio no other player with more than one goal comes close to.
In this kind of form, it’s hard to see how Hernandez can continue to be consigned to the substitute’s bench, but if he is to start matches, how can United adjust their formation to fit him in? With Ferguson flexible about the set up his front four, Hernandez has to compete with van Persie, Rooney, Valencia, Kagawa, Young, Nani and Welbeck for a place.
Yesterday United started with van Persie as their main striker, with Rooney behind him and Valencia and Young on the wings. When Hernandez came on for Ashley Young at half time, he joined van Persie in leading the line, with the Dutchman dropping deeper in occasions. This is one option for United going forward, but it may leave the side imbalanced with no-one to match Valencia on the left flank, especially in terms of tracking back for defensive duties.
If United were to drop Valencia they could set up as a more conventional 4-3-3, with an extra central midfielder brought in for the Ecuadorian to make the midfield a little more compact. Manchester United would then be reliant on Evra and Rafael to make up the attacks down the flanks, something both seem quite happy to do.
However one of the most effective parts of United’s game recently has been the Valencia-Rafael partnership on the right, with the two tearing into Chelsea and Arsenal with great success in recent weeks. On Saturday there was still a lot of play coming down the right, with Rafael’s cross leading to the equaliser. To take Valencia out of the side would also channel more of the play through the centre for United, perhaps risking their attacks becoming one-dimensional.
One other option could be to keep Young and Valencia in the side, bring in Hernandez with van Persie up front, and push Rooney even deeper into the centre of midfield. This side would have balance on the flanks, and would certainly carry plenty of threat in all areas.
However it would clearly be very top heavy and there would be real questions about whether Rooney could maintain his discipline in such a role. Ferguson could elect to simply drop Rooney in favour of Hernandez in the current system, but the England man has been in good form playing behind van Persie, and if he was taken out there is a chance that United would lose their link between the forwards and the midfield.
Manager’s are always at pains to say how much they love a selection dilemma, and you can imagine that is the case with Ferguson at the moment. It is quite the luxury to have a player like Hernandez available from the bench to come one and turn games like Saturday’s on their heads.
However, deciding on how best to wield such fantastic weapons as are in United’s arsenal at present is very tricky, and in attempting to use as many of these players as possible United have looked open at the back this season. Finding a balance between defence and attack this season will be an interesting challenge for the great manager this season, and how to incorporate the free-scoring Hernandez into the side will be a large part of that challenge.
How would you integrate Hernandez into the starting eleven? Or do you think he should remain on the bench in upcoming matches?
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