The Mexico international returns to the club he won two Premier League titles with at the weekend, looking to prove a point to those who doubted him
It’s that voice. That voice which questions your ability, or tells you flat out that you’re going to fail. It’s that voice which, if allowed, can destroy opportunities and ultimately waste your potential.
Self-doubt does not discriminate and is something which many experience on a daily basis. It is also something former Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez will have to answer to as he returns to Old Trafford with West Ham on Sunday, tasked with guiding his new club to victory against his old one.
“I would always welcome Javier in my squad because he doesn’t need many minutes on the pitch to score,” United manager Jose Mourinho said of Hernandez when it became known he was available. “But we moved in another direction with a younger player in Romelu Lukaku, and we have Marcus Rashford, who can be a striker, so we didn’t feel that need.”
Mourinho’s comments were fair. The £75 million transfer of Lukaku filled the void left by Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Old Trafford, while Rashford provides appropriate cover in the Belgium international’s absence. Hernandez, strictly a striker, would not have a place in Mourinho’s starting XI, and the Mexico international would accept that.
But to be told that you’re not needed, that those who once adored you have invested in bigger, better things, is enough to spark that aforementioned self-doubt.
Hernandez has since stressed the importance of Sunday’s meeting, both from a West Ham and an individual perspective, claiming he only has positive feelings towards the club he helped to two Premier League titles.
But what if, two years after leaving United for the Bundesliga, Hernandez could again prove his worth to United? When Mourinho suggested Hernandez would score 20 goals in his United side, Hernandez joked, perhaps through gritted teeth, that he would not have the opportunity. But, what if he had been afforded the chance? What if Hernandez had the opportunity to prove Mourinho wrong about not needing him?
Chicharito has proven himself as a strong character. He is unlikely to allow his United exit or the Portuguese’s comments to stew and won’t allow himself to overthink the opportunity he has to leave an impression on the Manchester side. He will, though, use the words as an incentive.
“I have no regrets, I never have any regrets in my life. Whether good things or bad experiences happen, you learn from them and they give you a lot of motivation and reasons to look forward to the future,” Hernandez said.
“There is one thing I don’t want to change, even if I am 40 years old, I still want this hunger inside of me that I have now. The only pressure I have is my own. I want to do it, I can do it and want to try to prove that I can do it. I can think, dream, speak very good things about football but I have to prove it.”
Revenge, though, is certainly rewarding. Scoring against his former employers would allow short-term relief for Hernandez while welcoming himself to his new supporters. The best revenge is success.
A great deal is riding on West Ham’s purchase of Chicharito from Bayer Leverkusen following a string of underwhelming centre-forward signings in east London. The £16 million outlay looks a reasonably small one, however, considering the Mexican’s pedigree.
Hernandez scored 28 league goals in 54 outings during his two seasons in the German top tier before opting to return to the Premier League with Slaven Bilic’s men, and he is expected to live up to his deadly reputation for his new club. Rather than discussing his goalscoring record, though, Hernandez insists he must start from scratch and prove his worth to Hammers fans on the pitch, starting with United.
“I feel the same as when I went to Manchester United, when I went to Real Madrid and Leverkusen, and now West Ham,” he said. “I am going to play football, which is something I was fighting for since I was a kid, and then we will see what happens. It’s easy to say I can score 20 goals, or that I have a lot of pressure, or not, or blah, blah, blah. Speaking is very easy but the most important thing is to prove myself on the pitch.”
Article continues below
There will be a part of Hernandez aching to score on Sunday. Not only to open his West Ham account, but to also serve as retribution to those who told him he is no longer good enough to represent United. A goal, and indeed a victory, would also go some way to silence that voice which will inevitably intensify as his return to Old Trafford edges ever closer.