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Aug 28, 2013

Chicharito's dilemma

The lure of playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world is now doubt irresistible to any competitive player, like Manchester United's Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, but the key word in that idea is "playing". "Sitting and watching" doesn't quite have the same ring to it, even when one is watching the likes of Robin van Persie perform. Yet as the Premier League swings into full action, that's where the renowned young striker finds himself.

Hernandez is on the outside looking in ostensibly due to a hamstring injury, but it's clear that United aren't rushing him to return partly because there are many capable players in the squad who are doing just fine. Besides Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck are lined up and seem to be ahead of Hernandez in the estimation of new coach David Moyes.

It's no wonder, given that Hernandez is still young at 25. Despite his prodigious talent, he doesn't have the experience of Van Persie or Rooney. Moyes is under pressure as the replacement of a legend, and the only way to meet the expectations of fans is to win. In terms of getting results, experience trumps development every time and will keep Hernandez on the bench.

So, with multiple players blocking his path to more playing time, what lies ahead for Hernandez, and, by extension, the Mexican national team?

Trade options are on the table, and Hernandez has already turned one down from Valencia. Now, that was before Rooney, who seemed on the verge of departure, apparently changed his mind and seemingly recommitted to the Reds this past Monday.

Other rumored options are Roma, Malaga or even Tottenham, which is the latest club to show a strong interest in acquiring Hernandez.

The advantages for Hernandez in leaving Manchester United are obvious, and the best of them is increased game time. It's likely that any club willing to pay the hefty transfer fee it would take to pry him loose from United would look to give their new signing plenty of playing time.

A player stays sharp when performing regularly. Endurance also declines drastically when players see only a few minutes. Hernandez has shown both a drop in form and stamina. Moyes isn't the only one to blame, however, because during the last days of Sir Alex Ferguson, Hernandez wasn't playing regularly.

Manchester United is wealthy enough that if need be, the club can continue to pay the sizeable salary of Hernandez while keeping him on the bench as a sort of expensive insurance policy to their top strikers. However, it's inevitable that this would invariably continue to erode some of the striker's skill. Scoring goals is a finely honed skill that needs to be kept sharp.

For Mexico's national team, 'Chicharito' falling out of form due to inaction isn't necessarily fatal. Oribe Peralta has been on a scorching run of form in Liga MX and he could rise to the occasion, especially when given service by Miguel Layun and/or Christian 'Chaco' Gimenez.

The strongest evidence that the national team can survive and even do well, without Hernandez, is that it has. Granted, their last game against the Ivory Coast was only a friendly, but it was a confident performance and victory that featured Oribe as the star.

Losing his starting spot on the national team would be salt in the wound of his club benching, but that seems to be the imminent future for Hernandez if he doesn't manage a trade to a club that wants to play him regularly. Hernandez could perhaps force Manchester United to deal for him if he became a toxic presence to the organization and forced a trade, but that's not the forward's style.

What Hernandez has going for him is the tremendous good will he has earned at Old Trafford. Fans love his ability to score goals and his ready and willing spirit. In contrast to some of the league's hotheads and malcontents, he is noted as a non-complainer. Yet even those who champion Hernandez and would love to see him stay at Manchester United, even if his limited playing time is detrimental to his own form, aren't slotting him in as an automatic starter. At least, not while Van Persie is still hale and hearty.