Chicharito idle as United jell under LVG
On the night when a rejuvenated and resurgent Manchester United squad stomped all over the Los Angeles Galaxy, winning 7-0, the saddest sight for certain fans of the Red Devils may have come before the match even kicked off.
That's because a sizable percentage of the nearly 90,000 present at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena wore red jerseys with the name "Chicharito" emblazoned on the back. If they arrived in the stadium early enough, they were in fact able to glimpse their hero, Javier Hernandez, dribbling the ball through a quick series of warm-ups. However, he was not available for the match.
Officially, this was because Hernandez had only just joined the squad, having been added late to the tour squad.
Yet the frustration for fans of the forward didn't exist merely because they missed out on watching him play in person. Hernandez is in a fragile position with United. He's seen precious little playing time under the previous regime, and has lost both form and confidence as a result. That's not a good combination when one needs to impress a new manager.
It's also intimidating to deal with a manager as tough and uncompromising as Dutchman Louis van Gaal. New midfielder Ander Herrera, who played for 90 minutes and linked up well with his teammates to set up attacks throughout the game, earned man of the match honours, but could not trigger a word of praise from his coach at the postgame news conference.
"I don't comment on individual players," Van Gaal explained.
However, as reticent as the Dutchman was to discuss particular performers, he gave the team as a whole a glowing review, calling their play "fantastic" and heralding their "beautiful attacks."
"Every good result helps in confidence," Van Gaal said. "It is better to win 7-0 than to lose and the players doubt the system."
That praise, of course, didn't extend to Hernandez, who had to sit idly by, watching his teammates earn the adulation of the crowd and coaching staff.
The players who did participate seemed to also relish the bonding experience of a dominant win.
Winger Antonio Valencia commented, "The group has come together and we're playing well." He seemed positively delighted by the changes Van Gaal has ushered into the club, saying, "My experience with him has been very positive so far."
If the coach's new formation and tactics bothered or flustered any of the Manchester United players involved in the romp over the Galaxy, it certainly didn't show.
Juan Mata remarked, "We know it is just the first step and some players have been training just three or four days. We have to go a bit more and improve physically and tactically, but we understood in a good way the new system and the football the manager wants to play."
To Bruce Arena, the head coach of the Galaxy, the evolution was impressive. He noted how differently the Red Devils' squad played compared to last season.
"They're playing a back three and some version of a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3, and that's a big change for a Manchester United club that's traditionally played 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 at times," he said.
Hernandez may not get the chance to prove that he can play well in Van Gaal's system. He had a wave and a smile for fans at the close of the match, but nothing to say to the press. It's possible he wanted to avoid questions about his immediate future. Rumours of his imminent transfer had been rampant even before Van Gaal's appointment was revealed.
Even if Hernandez is given playing time soon, it's hard to imagine that Manchester United could possibly top the dominating play displayed against the Galaxy, meaning that it's likely that his performance will suffer by comparison. With a small window in which to impress Van Gaal, Hernandez lost out on a chance to boost his standing with the squad and to bolster his own conviction that he belongs with the first team.
It's hard to look at a 7-0 win and see any losers on the winning team, but Hernandez could be one.
Andrea Canales covers both Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter @soccercanales.