Giggs salutes blossoming Hernandez
Ryan Giggs believes Javier Hernandez deserves all the praise he is receiving for a magnificent debut season at Manchester United. Outside his native Mexico, few had heard of Hernandez before Sir Alex Ferguson completed his cloak-and-dagger operation to sign the striker in April last year.
A couple of decent performances at the World Cup gave an indication Ferguson might have landed a £7m bargain, but even the United manager did not expect 22-year-old Hernandez to make the impact he has during an incredible campaign.
Starting from an unorthodox goal on his debut in the Community Shield win, to yesterday's 36-second stunner, both against Chelsea, Hernandez has continued to amaze and has now become the first United player to score 20 in his debut campaign since Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2001.
It is a fair bet that if voting for the main player-of-the-year awards were taking place now, Hernandez would go very close to winning them. Giggs feels all the credit is fully merited. "Twenty goals in his first season is unbelievable," said the veteran Welshman. "You are always in with a chance when you have a goalscorer like Javier in your team. He has made a fantastic impact, on and off the pitch.
"His English is perfect, which has helped, and his goal just sums up his season. Sometimes those chances can come a bit early for you. You are not quite up to speed. Thirty seconds, he gets a chance, he scores. He deserves everything that has been said about him."
In heaping praise on Hernandez, Giggs is deflecting some away from himself. He might have been slightly fortunate to edge the official man-of-the-match prize ahead of the tireless contribution of Park Ji-sung, but at 37, Giggs brings a calmness to United's performances that money cannot buy.
No wonder Ferguson raised the possibility yesterday of Giggs continuing into the 2012/13 campaign, having already signed a one-year contract extension to take him into next term. Should United collect the single point required to clinch the title, it would be a 12th for Giggs, a quite staggering effort, although not one he is willing to celebrate just yet. "We have a great chance haven't we?" said Giggs.
"We have to get a point from two games, one of which is at home, where our form has been brilliant. But mathematically we are not there, so we can't celebrate."
United can seal their latest championship on Saturday at the ground where they felt last season's was lost - Blackburn's Ewood Park. Ferguson has vowed to maintain focus for the remaining two games, although given his second string were good enough to reach the UEFA Champions League final in midweek, the prospect of United taking it easy is not likely to bring much comfort to Blackburn and Blackpool.
And what is about to come will not only make Liverpool squirm. It will also answer a few critics who have claimed the current United side might be substandard. "We all concede that we weren't playing brilliantly in the first half of the season. But we were getting results," observed Giggs.
"In the second half of the season our performances and results have been excellent. We don't really care what people say. We know the quality that is in the dressing room, so does the manager."