Gym work paying off for Hernandez
Javier Hernandez has admitted that he has been forced to hit the gym in an effort to cope with the physical demands of the Premier League.
Hernandez has enjoyed a superb first season since arriving at Manchester United from Mexican outfit Chivas in the summer. A virtual unknown until he caught the eye for his country at the FIFA World Cup™, Hernandez avoided the trap Diego Forlan fell into by scoring on his competitive debut for United, an unconventional effort in the Community Shield, and has kept going ever since.
His double against Marseille on Tuesday took his seasonal tally to 16, well in excess of what he anticipated at this stage of his Red Devils career. However, far from finding English football easy, Hernandez is doing a huge amount of work behind the scenes to ensure he is capable of meeting the challenges that lie ahead.
"I have done better than I thought I would," said the 24-year-old. "But I wouldn't say it has been easier. Nothing in life is easy. Physically I have got a lot stronger. I go to the gym a lot. It is not because I like it. It is something I needed to do because the English league is quicker and more physical."
Bulking up has not affected Hernandez's speed though. He has turned into the perfect partner for Wayne Rooney due to his pace and willingness to run behind defenders. That in turn allows Rooney more space in which to operate and is one of the major reasons why United are now starting to find their form. And that, to Hernandez, is all that matters, irrespective of the goals he is netting on a regular basis.
"It has helped my confidence a lot to score so many goals," he said. "But the most important thing for me has always been the results of the team. Goals are merely a consequence of the work everyone does. Of course I am very happy to score but if Manchester United win all their games, it doesn't matter who gets the goals."
With Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen all available, Sir Alex Ferguson is spoilt for choice with his striking options to face Bolton at Old Trafford tomorrow. The same cannot be said about United's defence. Ferguson - absent from his club's Carrington training ground today as his horse, What a Friend, ran in the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup - is considering whether to rush Jonny Evans back from an ankle injury purely because he has only four other senior defenders available.
One of those, Fabio, will be required to play at right-back instead of his normal left, whilst Chris Smalling is being asked to assume additional responsibility despite, like Hernandez, not having a full season of first-team experience behind him with the Red Devils. Not that Smalling is being fazed by the tasks being placed in front of him, or the prospect of trying to subdue the not inconsiderable threat of Kevin Davies.
"You get muscular contests in the Premier League with teams like Stoke, who have Kenwyne Jones, and Bolton, who have Kevin Davies," said Smalling. "Different strikers offer different things and I know it will be a battle against Davies. But I enjoyed the challenge of playing against Stoke earlier in the season and if Bolton want to kick it up in the air, I will challenge all day long."
Clearly, Hernandez is up for the contest also. For all the plaudits and warm words that have come his way, he is acutely aware nothing has been won yet. And that is all that counts at Manchester United.
"I found it harder at the start but the fans have welcomed me from my first day and that gave me a lot of confidence," he said. "But I don't think this season is over. We are at the top of the Premier League, we have the game against Chelsea in the Champions League and also Manchester City in the FA Cup. That is three chances to win. And the history of Manchester United is all about winning trophies."