It is 10 years to the day since Manchester United pulled a Little Pea out of a Sombrero to announce one of the best bargain transfers in club history.
On April 8 2010, United announced an agreement with Mexican club Chivas de Guadalajara for the transfer of young strike prospect Javier Hernandez, nicknamed Chicharito.
The deal was a rare one. Firstly, United rarely make any transfers in April. Secondly, the club very scarcely sign any first team players from North America, and have not done so since, despite Hernandez’s success.
There was a desire on United’s part to get a deal done before the 2010 World Cup, at which Hernandez would play a part and score in a memorable victory over France.
The fee paid by United was reported by BBC Sport to be as little as £6 million. That looked like a bargain by time he had even arrived, thanks to his World Cup exploits.
Hernandez immediately showed he was a goal poacher, of the like that United had lacked since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s retirement from playing.
The Mexican joined a United team looking to bounce back from missing out on the 2009/10 league title to Chelsea.
His first season was tremendous, and would actually prove to be his best at Old Trafford.
Hernandez scored 23 goals in all competitions, 13 in the Premier League.
His first goal for the club was a strange one, in the Community Shield win over Chelsea, he appeared to kick the ball against himself while bundling it into the net. Nonetheless, it counted, and got him off the mark.
Hernandez would go onto haunt Chelsea, famously scoring against them in May in a title decided after just 36 seconds at Old Trafford in a 2-1 win.
He scored all types of goals, with his feet, with his head, often contributing from the bench.
He won a player of the year award double in his debut season and was rewarded with a five-year deal.
Sir Alex Ferguson said: “The last player I remember making an impact as quickly is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Javier reminds me of Ole.”
The bargain transfer stood out at a time when United were looking to buy low cost superstars. The Gabriel Obertan deal flopped big time, but Javier Hernandez was an instant hit.
One of the problems Hernandez encountered at United was that even after his debut campaign Sir Alex Ferguson never fully trusted him enough to be the club’s number one striker.
Hernandez was competing with Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, and an emerging Danny Welbeck.
He scored a more underwhelming 12 goals the next season, before responding to the challenge of new signing Robin van Persie in 2012/13 as he scored 18 goals to win a second title at Old Trafford.
Like so many United players, after Sir Alex Ferguson left, his career at the club began to fall away.
David Moyes was even less convinced, and Hernandez had his worst season, featuring mainly from the bench and scoring only nine times.
Louis van Gaal did not give him a chance. He signed Radamel Falcao and sent Hernandez on loan to Real Madrid, before selling him to Bayer Leverkusen a year later.
Hernandez enjoyed a new lease of life in Germany, scoring 39 goals in two years before being tempted back to England with West Ham.
At West Ham he was tipped to take the league by storm again, and disappointed. Perhaps it was a case of ‘wrong club’, or perhaps he had just lost a step, or his love for the game, after peaking so early into his career.
Now after a stint at Sevilla, he is playing in MLS with LA Galaxy and turns 32 in June.
Hernandez spoke to ESPN this week about his career at time at Old Trafford.
He said: “[When you join a club like United] it is difficult to find a balance between enjoying it, not getting obsessed over wanting more and thinking that you have already done everything.”
Looking back on Hernandez’s 2010/11 season brings back happy memories, at a time when life was more simple for Manchester United fans. Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge, and Hernandez had won our fourth title in five years, helping us to a Champions League final along the way.
We haven’t been back at that level since, and it’s sad that Hernandez wasn’t able to establish himself as an all-time great at Old Trafford. He certainly had that potential.
His success shows that United don’t have to make mega-money transfer to find top players. Smart scouting and some risk taking can land them too.
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