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Dublin: 7°C Sunday 11 April 2021

Javier Hernandez's goal last night showed Man United exactly what they're missing

How Louis van Gaal could do with his movement and energy in the final third right about now.

Image: Andrew Medichini

JAVIER HERNANDEZ HAS enjoyed himself since swapping Manchester United for Bayer Leverkusen but he’s hit a particularly rich vein of form in recent weeks.

The Mexican managed a goal in his first start for the Bundesliga side – a Champions League clash with BATE Borisov back in September – and he netted the winner in a 1-0 win over Mainz the following week.

Then came a mini-slump when he failed to complete a full ninety minutes in Leverkusen’s next four fixtures and struggled to find the back of the net.

Italy Soccer Champions League Source: Andrew Medichini/AP/Press Association Images

Still, he’s sparkled in Europe and a fortnight ago, he conjured a brace in the thrilling 4-4 draw with Roma.

He grabbed another in his side’s 4-3 victory over Stuttgart four days later and then one more against Wolfsburg last weekend.

But last night, in the return Champions League tie with the side from the Italian capital, he scored a magnificent goal to level things at 2-2.

The 27-year-old has always been known for his movement in the penalty area but owing to his lack of playing time at Manchester United and his bit-part cameos at Real Madrid, we haven’t seen much of it lately.

So, this goal was all about his work off-the-ball and his ability to completely bamboozle defences with his timing and positional awareness.

Firstly, he looks to make a direct run in the right channel but checks back to receive a short pass instead.

As soon as the ball subsequently leaves his foot, he makes a move to sprint into the space behind. But Antonio Rudiger blocks him off and so, he pulls off the defender’s shoulder instead, slips in behind Daniel de Rossi and he’s suddenly in a pocket of space on the edge of the area.

From here, it’s classic Hernandez. With the ball on the right wing, he darts towards the right channel and in behind Rudiger again. He looks behind him and sees only two Roma defenders minding the house. So, he pushes away from Manolas, who’s caught in two minds. He decides to step up but his right-back, Florenzi, isn’t on the same page. As Karim Bellaribi plays the pass, Hernandez checks back to make sure he’s onside. Only then does Florenzi react, while Manolas – whose idea it was to play offside in the first place – merely sticks his hand in the air in desperation.

Italy Soccer Champions League Source: Andrew Medichini/AP/Press Association Images

From there, it’s all about Hernandez’s finishing abilities and he drives the right-footed shot under Wojciech Szczesny.

The energy and movement and work ethic from the Mexican made the goal. It wasn’t just a single default run – it was a couple of different, subtle elements that led to the chance being created.

And given the lack of penetration, aggression and options in Manchester United’s attack currently, the lack of opportunity he was given by Louis van Gaal continues to look immensely short-sighted.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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