This is the question Sir Alex will be asking Hernandez after ending the season without his top scorer even making the bench for the Champions League final. Fergie would never have imagined that he’d have to bench Berba in the season where he was finally starting to score goals and living up to his 30million price tag. You'd have got great odds on football betting sites on Hernandez scoring 20 goals, so unexpected was his impact!
When the deal to sign Javier was finalised around March last year, Fergie thought he was signing a promising Mexican youngster, who could be a top striker in the future. Post World Cup, the hype around Chicharito increased and he went from an unknown talent to a player with enormous potential.
It wasn’t long before people realized what a gem we had in him, but even then it was blasphemy to think Sir Alex would drop Berba in favour for the then villainous Wayne Rooney or the young, inexperienced Mexican. Berbatov was in top form, and was coming good just when we needed a goal scorer badly, with Rooney in Sir Alex’s bad books and struggling to perform on the pitch. It seemed like our season was to be doomed from the very beginning, But Berba was scoring goals for fun, including a marvellous hat trick against Liverpool.
But things started to go downhill for Berba from February, as he struggled to find the net for 7 consecutive games, eventually leading to him being benched for the FA Cup tie against Arsenal. Hernández and Rooney started as we went on to win 2-0, with Chicharito impressing alongside Wayne. The next game, 3 days later in the Champions league against Marseille saw Sir Alex stick with the duo upfront and Hernández repaid Sir Alex by scoring a brace.
Since then Berba was restricted to substitute appearances or only started when Sir Alex wanted to rest either Rooney or Hernandez. Unfortunately for Berbatov, Hernandez was in great form, scoring goals freely, also to Hernandez’s advantage was that Wayne Rooney seemed to be thriving when playing alongside the Mexican, and was finally playing like Rooney from the 2009-10 season.
Hernandez vs. Berbatov: what made Javier a better choice?
Berbatov is probably one of the most technically gifted footballers in the world, and with a sublime first touch that cannot be beaten. But he isn’t a natural goal scorer, and while he did score a lot of goals this season, he went through series of games without scoring goals too. And when not having a good day on the pitch Berba rarely offered much else to the team in attack or even in defence.
Hernandez on the other hand seems to have been born within the penalty box, a natural goal scorer he’s an excellent finisher and his movement & blistering pace make him a huge pain in the neck for defenders. Surprisingly good in the air for someone of his stature, Hernandez plays off the last defender hoping to catch them off guard or beat the offside track and get 1v1 with the keeper. And most times you’ll see him score a goal.
He has been rightfully compared to Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and Michael Owen; he’s a natural goal poacher; only a fool would ignore his presence in the penalty box. Hernandez even on his off days requires careful watching and close marking, because even one slip from the opposition cold end up with Hernandez scoring. Hernandez gives 110% every game, chasing down defenders, and not giving them time on the ball.
Berbatov’s exclusion from the CL final came as a major shock to almost every United fan, and thus put his future at the club in doubt. With one year remaining on his contract, whether Berba stays or not is up to Sir Alex to decide. After the first half of the season, Berbatov would never have imagined that come end of the season this would be the state of affairs.
I think Sir Alex may decide to cash in on Berbatov, and look to give one of the youngsters a chance or sign a striker. But if he does stay, Berbatov has a huge challenge ahead of him to prove to Sir Alex that he should be back in the starting XI, and be his first choice striker again. I sympathise with Sir Alex for having make such tough choices, especially one he never envisioned he would have to make end of season!