Why were Man Utd fans pleased to see Hernandez go?
Javier Hernandez was given the opportunity to impress Louis van Gaal when he was handed a start in place of the injured Robin van Persie for the ill-fated season opener against Swansea. Sadly, the Mexican put in a dreadful shift and was replaced at halftime by Nani.
Hernandez had the chance to redeem himself in the Capital One Cup against MK Dons but somehow managed to be even less effective. With 15 minutes left to play, the ball came to him when he was just a few yards out. Instead of just burying the ball in the back of the net, Hernandez attempted to use the outside of his boot and fired wide.
The fact he was looking in the opposite direction in an apparent attempt to trick the goalkeeper made it even more cringe worthy. This miss summed up what he had become; severely lacking in confidence and unable to deliver from inside the box -- characteristics which are polar opposites from what he was capable of when he joined the club.
When it was confirmed last week that Hernandez was joining Real Madrid on loan, Manchester United fans were fairly unanimous in being pleased that the deal had gone through.
But it hadn't always been like this.
Chicharito used to be adored at Old Trafford. His ability to be in the right place at the right time, instinctively moving towards the ball outside of the peripheral view of the defender, meant his goal-scoring tally was superb.
Sergio Aguero recently broke the record for the most Premier League goals in the fewest minutes and Sky Sports published a table showing the deadliest strikers this league has seen. After Aguero came Thierry Henry followed by Ruud van Nistelrooy and then Hernandez. With a goal every 130 minutes, he has a better scoring rate than the likes of Alan Shearer, Van Persie and Luis Suarez. When you consider that he isn't a penalty taker either, it's a fairly remarkable return.
Hernandez started his account at United with a goal against Chelsea in the Community Shield. He somehow managed to score after booting the ball into his own face to beat Petr Cech. He wheeled away with his arms spread, an ecstatic grin on his face, before kissing the badge. This was a celebration that United fans became accustomed to over the years.
His prematch prayer and euphoric reaction to every goal scored made him incredibly endearing. Chicharito regularly found himself yards behind the opposition's back four, looking painfully offside, only for replays to show he had been level with the last man. His pace was electric and he had a great knack of getting on to the end of everything that came in to the box.
While the fan base was clearly already won over, his ability to score important goals began to set him apart from some of the other strikers at the club. A few months into his career he managed to score an incredible goal against Stoke: a backwards header that looked to have earned United the victory. However, they equalised with a few minutes remaining, seemingly snatching a point, only for Hernandez to stab home the winner moments afterwards.
Two days later, the he scored a last-minute winner against Wolves in the Capital One Cup. This was the beginning of a trend that followed. Of Hernandez's first 10 goals for United, nine of them played a deciding factor in the final score. His goals may have been tap-ins or headers at the back post, but his positioning and readiness to score when they mattered was something to be admired.
At the turn of the year in his first season, United were 2-0 down against newly promoted Blackpool when Hernandez was subbed on in the 66th minute. Less than 10 minutes later, United were level, before eventually winning the game 3-2. His presence, as well as his goals, time and again, was the catalyst to success.
United supporters hadn't seen a player make such a difference to the results since Eric Cantona's performances in the second half of the 1995-96 season. Hernandez scored 13 goals in all competitions from January onwards, including in the 2-1 win over Chelsea in the Champions League, in United's 1-0 with over Everton a few weeks before the end of the season with five minutes left to play and, most important, within the opening minute against Chelsea in the league, which essentially wrapped up the title.
Dimitar Berbatov was the league's top scorer that season but Hernandez managed to force him out of the starting team and racked up an incredible 20 goals in his first year in England. He scored 12 the following season and 18 the season after. A total of over 50 goals in three seasons would please any striker, particularly when he hadn't always been in the starting team during this time, and his attitude was second to none. Like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before him, Hernandez appeared to be content with his role in the squad.
"I am happy to be at this club," he said the season before last. "Of course I would love to start more often but I will keep the same attitude. When the gaffer wants me on the bench or the starting lineup I will do my best. My attitude is going to be very good because I want to respect the club."
It has all gone downhill since then, though, and Van Gaal was unable to revive the player after the rot set in under David Moyes. Chicharito looks a shadow of the striker he once was. If he's not burying chances from a few yards out, then there's very little he has to offer, making his position in the squad untenable. You can't have a goal poacher who no longer is capable of poaching goals.
While it's possible for strikers to lose their spark, as Fernando Torres has proved in his time at Chelsea, it's hard to believe that the Chicharito fans grew to love has gone forever. He turned 26 just this summer and should have the peak of his career ahead of him.
His new team, Real Madrid, take on their local rivals and Spanish champions, Atletico Madrid, this weekend. If ever there was an ideal moment for him to revert to type, this is it. And with Hernandez's taste for scoring big goals, you wouldn't want to bet against a late substitution and a winning tap-in.
Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.