Just watched United finish up the American leg of their pre-season tour with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Chivas, one of the top Mexican sides, at the inauguration of their new stadium in Guadalajara. This match was part of the deal to bring the young Mexican striker Javier Hernandez to Old Trafford. Hernandez made quite an impact in the recent World Cup, scoring against both France and Argentina and on first sighting, he looks quite a player – very quick and really good in the air for a guy who is under 6 feet tall. Tonight he played the first half for Chivas – and scored with a smart left-footed finish after only 7 minutes; biting the hand that is now feeding him, you might say. He then played about 20 minutes of the second half for United, but just never got any service from midfield, which tells you all you need to know about where United’s problems lie right now. In fact, Hernandez has already scored his first United goal, in a game against a MLS Select XI in Houston the other night and he could do well in Europe, though it will no doubt take him time to settle. In Mexico, meanwhile he’s like David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo rolled into one – there were scenes akin to Beatlemania when he did a PA for Nike in Guadalajara yesterday.
Peas? I don’t think so……XXXX
For United, the tour has no doubt satisfied the manager’s desire for a good pre-season, but the performances have been a real mixed bag. Excellent against Celtic in the first game, poor against Philadelphia in the second, woeful against Kansas City in the third and much better in the fourth game against the MLS All-Stars. Against Chivas, they came up against a team who are in prime form and have reached the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores, the South/Central American version of the Champions League. 3-2 was probably about right, though the pattern of the game disintegrated once both sides began making multiple substitutions in the second half; up until then, it had been a good match played at quite a high tempo.
United, of course, set off on this tour without their World Cup participants, who will return ahead of next Wednesday’s friendly against an Irish Select XI in Dublin. Also missing from this tour were Valencia and Owen, both injured. I don’t think you could really say that anyone has covered themselves in glory on this tour, though Tom Cleverley has done enough to suggest to me that he should be retained in Manchester rather than sent out on loan. New centre-back Chris Smalling has done OK without setting the world on fire and the likes of Obertan, Berbatov and Nani have played well in patches. It’s perhaps easier to identify those that have not done so well – John O’Shea looks past it, Darren Gibson looks slow, fat and inept, Diouf looks like he couldn’t score to save his life and Macheda just needs to grow up and remember that football is a team game. The midfield is still heavily dependent on the veterans, Scholes and Giggs and news that United may be in talks to buy the German midfielder Mesut Özil from Werder Bremen is welcome. Like Hernandez, Özil is some way from being the finished article, but with Scholes & Giggs rapidly becoming the Statler & Waldorf of the Premiership and Carrick’s career in freefall, he has to represent a better long-term option than those we have at the moment. Much will depend on how tight Ferguson’s budget is…. Özil could leave Bremen for free at the end of the coming season, but the club understandably want to cash in on his World Cup-enhanced status.
Returning to Hernandez, there is likely to be a measure of confusion when he arrives in England because the name that has appeared on his shirt to date is ‘Chicharito’ – ‘the Little Pea’ in Spanish. This stems from the fact that his Dad, also a Mexican international in his day, was known as ‘Chicharo’ – ‘the Pea’ – due to his vivid green eyes. The player himself has, apparently, expressed a desire to be known as ‘Chicharito’, but whilst the MUTV staff are dutifully trotting out his nickname – except for Paddy Crerand, who has trouble pronouncing anything other than British or Irish names – you sense that this one just isn’t going to fly. To the English, ‘Chicharito’ is just going to sound like a children’s cartoon character or some kind of skin complaint you might pick up in Majorca. Also, we’ve been here before with Jordi Cruyff, who was so keen to escape comparisons with his illustrious father that he appeared one year with ‘Jordi’ on the back of his shirt. That didn’t work out for him and he was back to ‘Cruyff’ the following season. Maybe the United players could show solidarity by having their nicknames emblazoned across their shirts; so Rooney would become ‘Wazza’, O’Shea would become ‘Sheasy’ and Giggs & Scholes could just have a ‘y’ appended to their existing names. It will be interesting to see how this one goes, but the fact is that Hernandez is a name that most United fans will be able to manage without too much fuss, whereas ‘Chicharito’ sounds infantile and is also a bit of a mouthful. We like our footballers to be men, not little boys (or peas) and I would reckon it to be a reasonable bet that Hernandez will be called just that by the media and the fans and that the only ‘little peas’ that will concern United fans will be those they consume with chips and curry sauce after the match.
Peas, Manchester-style………. √ √ √ √