Manchester United sign 'Little Pea' to fill major squad gap

Arrival of 21-year-old Mexican striker adds to questions over future of Berbatov

A new signing who answers to the nickname of "Little Pea" might not have the streets of Stretford humming with expectation in the aftermath of Champions League elimination, but Manchester United's announcement of the purchase of the 21-year-old Mexican striker Javier Hernandez, otherwise known as Chicharito, was something to take away the raw memory of the manner of defeat to Bayern Munich.

Conspiracy theorists will say the announcement was choreographed to bolster the impression that United are not a club in reverse; that the Glazer family have the means to spend – but only time will tell whether the 5ft 9in striker will be the new Carlos Tevez, or just another Zoran Tosic. His price tag is unclear – probably no more than £8m since only a year ago Hernandez was contemplating giving up the game and returning to education after struggling to make his way at Mexican club side Chivas de Guadalajara.

But the results since have been spectacular, Hernandez scored 11 of Chivas' 23 goals last year in 17 games, following up with eight more in nine games this year and three goals in 90 minutes for the national side. The player, whose father and grandfather both played World Cup football for Mexico in the 1986 and 1954 tournaments respectively, is strong in the air despite his modest size. His first three goals for the national side came with his head and some consider him the best Mexican goalscoring prospect since the emergence of Hugo Sanchez 30 years ago.

"You think, OK, here's this little midget,'' said Chivas forward Jesus Padilla, who played with Hernandez for three years. "But he's got some serious hops. He's amazing in the air."

That said, there has not been too much of any Mexican vintage in the Premier League in recent years – Arsenal's Carlos Vela and Nery Castillo, once of Manchester City, have hardly excelled – and given the painful dependence on Wayne Rooney, which has become so evident in the past 10 days, United cannot afford any more unreliable strikers. That, by dint of either injury or lack of form, Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov have most definitely become.

Where for Berbatov now? It is hard to imagine that his anaemic contribution against Chelsea last week will not feature in the manager's mind when he surveys the highs and lows of the season. The problem, should Sir Alex Ferguson decide Berbatov is better off elsewhere, is how to avoid taking a serious hit on the £30.75m laid out on a player now 29 years old, whose value has plummeted.

The Mexican purchase is difficult to rationalise, given the presence of Federico Macheda – "as good a talent as I've seen in a young player as a centre forward," Ferguson said of him last Friday – and Danny Welbeck, whom the manager was touting as a possible England World Cup prospect last autumn. But he looks good on YouTube.

It is the other end of United's team that gives cause for concern. Had John O'Shea's recuperation from a leg injury come earlier, or Wes Brown been available, then Rafael da Silva might not have found himself staring into the whites of Franck Ribéry's eyes on Wednesday. But ifs and buts such as these have plagued United over the past two years. The £10m purchase of Chris Smalling seems designed to prepare for the gap left by Nemanja Vidic, if he leaves, though the signing from Fulham is another who arrives with potential, not proof of delivery.

Darren Fletcher insisted yesterday that United are not overly dependent on Rooney, who is now expected to be out until the Manchester derby at Eastlands in eight days' time. "Any team would miss him," said Fletcher, "but we believe we have enough quality to deal without him." There has been much evidence to the contrary.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
The RBS Six Nations trophy at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Ireland vs England
rugby
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
music
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?