Javier Hernández will sign a generous new contract that will make the 23-year-old a multimillionaire according to the player’s agent. The deal is reward for an outstanding first season at the club and protection from overseas predators. Indeed, with Real Madrid reportedly sniffing around the player, Manchester United has moved to quickly bring Hernandez’ pay in line with more senior earners at the club. The Mexican becomes the 13th squad member to sign a contract extension in the past year as Sir Alex Ferguson continues to evolve his resources.
But with Hernández suffering a difficult start to the new campaign after a curtailed pre-season, injury against Chelsea and international commitments, the really hard work starts now. No longer the new kid on the block, Hernández’ strengths and weaknesses are well known. Now, with an £80,000-per-week contract freshly inked, Hernández faces an all new kind of pressure: one to justify the faith, and another to exceed ever inflated expectations.
“We have renegotiated Javier’s contract and he is now committed for five years with Manchester United,” said agent Eduardo Hernández.
“The initial contract was good for Manchester and for Javier because it enabled them both to see if they could fit together and if he could achieve what was expected of him. Both sides have met their expectations and United were happy to reward Javier after his very good performances last season.
“I will not talk about numbers, but it is a five-year contract. It is a fixed salary with incentives based on the team’s success in each of the different tournaments. Javier was not badly paid with his initial contract, but it was his first contract and, with respect, not comparable with the likes of Wayne Rooney and Nani. But today, I can say that the contract has just been signed and everyone is satisfied.”
Hernández scored 20 goals in 45 games last season following a £7 million transfer from Chivas Guadalajara last summer, a stunning performance all the more remarkable for a player brand new to European football. But that performance, and the positive words of Sir Alex Ferguson have raised expectations of an even more dynamic second season at Old Trafford. Indeed, the media and supporter criticism of the player is likely to be felt should the youngster suffer anything close to the clichéd ‘second season syndrome’.
Yet, there is something in the player’s personality – both charming and determined – that suggests United’s marksman will not be long the relative doldrums. After all, any challenges to date this season have not been of the Mexicans own making. Hernández suffered concussion on United’s pre-season tour of the United States, which he began late after the Gold Cup in any case. Then a shin injury, dead-leg and two bouts of international fixtures have helped little in the Mexican’s search for rhythm. The latest trip, a 12,000 mile round trip to Brazil, with the international playing the full 90 minutes on Wednesday night.
But there is also work to be done. The player’s over-eagerness to be involved in all aspects of play has waned a little, with a greater focus on movement in and around the last third playing to Hernández’ genuine strengths. Yet, the 23-year-old remains a poacher above all, offering movement, pace, and outstanding finishing but requiring support. After all, the Mexican is hardly likely to work the channels, hold up the ball or lead the line alone. None of which Ferguson’s scouts recommended the player for, of course.
Moreover, Hernández now faces a genuine battle with Danny Welbeck for a place in Ferguson’s team. Certainly for the weekend fixture with Liverpool the Mexican’s jet lag may well count against a starting berth. Then there is Welbeck’s progression in a year at Sunderland, which has brought five goals in as many games. The Longsight-born youngster has also forced his way into the England reckoning, coming on as a substitute against Montenegro for England last week.
Neither Hernández’ new deal, nor Welbeck’s progression, is good news for Dimitar Berbatov of course, with the 30-year-old Bulgarian starting just two of United’s nine matches in all competitions this season. Berbatov remains the only senior United player to not hold a long-term contract, with the player’s dealing running out in June 2012. Although the club holds an option to extend the striker’s contract beyond next summer it must be taken up, according to reports, before January when the Bulgarian becomes free to negotiate with interested parties.
Should Welbeck continue his upwardly mobile performances, Hernández’ hit the ground running after the international break and Rooney keep his powder dry, Berbatov’s chances of making Ferguson’s first team will diminish further. It may precipitate a sad end to one striker’s United career, while another’s is just beginning to ignite.