Hernandez: I'm no Solskjaer yet
Javier Hernandez feels he has plenty of work to do before he can be compared to legendary Manchester United sharp-shooter Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Norwegian hit-man has returned home to begin his management career with Molde, having left behind a mountain of happy memories, top of which is that injury-time winner in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final.
Yet, already, it seems Hernandez is being regarded with similar affection and following his late header at West Brom yesterday, Sir Alex Ferguson admitted there was something of Solskjaer in the Mexican new-boy. But the man himself shrugs off such accolades.
At 22, Hernandez recognises he is only just starting his career. And while the latest in a growing number of eye-catching headers might have kept United on top of the Premier League, he recognises his eight goals so far are only the starting point for him at Old Trafford.
"It is great motivation for me when people say these things but I would say no," he smiled. "I need to work a lot to be like him."
Hernandez might not find it quite as easy to get others to stop mentioning him and Solskjaer in the same sentence. Patrice Evra for instance made sure he immersed himself in United culture when he first arrived from Monaco five years ago. And he sees the resemblance immediately.
"It is true," he argued. "Always when he comes on you feel like he will score. It is unbelievable. But I do think he wants to play more. When you play football you want to start every game."
Hernandez has not started a Premier League game since November 13, although he has made four substitute appearances, including cameos in all three Christmas matches so far. And, whilst there was optimistic talk of Wayne Rooney being available for Tuesday's Old Trafford encounter with Stoke, the heavy blow he took to his ankle from a tackle by Chris Brunt at The Hawthorns yesterday means take the precaution of resting the England man, even if recovery proved far swifter than initially feared when he limped off.
That would open the door for Hernandez to start alongside Dimitar Berbatov as United look to strengthen their position ahead of Arsenal's crucial encounter with Manchester City 24 hours later. Not that any game without Rooney can be looked forward to in supreme confidence given his performance yesterday.
Hard work paying off for Rooney
Taking just three minutes to end that long wait for a goal in open play, Rooney helped hold his side together when it appeared they might be submerged, producing arguably his best all-round performance since he suffered that ankle injury in Munich last March that proved a catalyst for his dramatic dip in form.
"I am very glad for Wayne," said Evra. "He deserved to score because has been working so hard in training. He showed what character he has at the end when he came back on to the pitch. That was good for Manchester United and now I hope Wazza can score more goals."
Rooney's ankle will be assessed today, although if the damage had been extensive, it is hardly likely he would have been allowed back on for that frantic period of injury-time and although he was not moving freely, he did at least head back to the north-west without the protective casing he needed on that sour night in Munich.
Any casing would have been better served around the door of the referee's room given Chris Foy's inexplicable failure to dismiss Gary Neville for his first-half lunge on Graham Dorrans. Even the United camp accepted Foy got it wrong even if, in Evra's case, it came in a slightly roundabout way. "I am not the referee. I am a Manchester United player and I am glad he stayed on the pitch," he said.
Now United must quickly re-energise themselves for Stoke's visit, with Nani possibly in line for a recall after his recent hip problem. It will be their fourth game in nine days, before a short break that precedes an FA Cup tie with Liverpool and a mouth-watering Premier League trip to Tottenham. Not that Evra is complaining.
"Yes, it is difficult for the body. Yes, we are tired. But it is also a privilege," he said. "Some people have to get up at 6am and do something they don't like. This is England. It is the best football in the world."