New England Revolution
Seattle Sounders FC
Game Details

Did Manchester United make a mistake when selling Javier Hernandez?

If it was down to Jose Mourinho, Javier Hernandez would never have left Manchester United.

Louis van Gaal sold Hernandez to Bayer Leverkusen in 2015 but Mourinho reckons his side could have done with Chicharito's prowess in front of goal this season.

Mourinho reckons Hernandez would have bagged 20 goals for United and his comments have led some to believe the 28-year-old could make a return to Old Trafford. 

Is Hernandez the answer? ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondents Scott Patterson and Musa Okwonga debate whether Mourinho should make a move.

Who is to blame for Manchester United's struggles in front of goal?

Scott Patterson: I blame the players more than I do the manager. While I hear the arguments about the need for him to build up their confidence, which I agree it is his job to do, my overriding feeling is that world-class players should be able to put the ball in from a few yards out whatever the manager is saying or doing.

Ibrahimovic has been hailed as United's saviour but he's been so wasteful in front of goal. He's missed so many "big chances" this season and he isn't alone. Mourinho employs a style that means only Tottenham Hotspur have had more shots than United, apart from Liverpool who have played two games more, yet when you look at shots on target, and then goals, our forwards have been appalling.

In the painful nine draws, United have scored just six goals from 55 on target attempts. To give that perspective, Manchester City's Leroy Sane has eight goals from 13 shots on target. It's woeful and the players have to take responsibility for that.

Musa Okwonga: I largely agree with Scott here, but I disagree to the extent that Mourinho's tactical setup is not bringing the best from these players. Though Ibrahimovic has probably been United's player of the season -- with Antonio Valencia and Ander Herrera probably the closest competitors for that title -- he has missed plenty of chances at key moments, most notably the early miss against Stoke at home.

The lack of composure from some of United's leading players has been startling. Anthony Martial has not yet proven that he can score goals in high numbers -- he did well enough last year, but that was merely a promising start. Paul Pogba, though he seems to have a love affair with the woodwork at present, still needs to improve his accuracy from distance. 

Yet the main criticism of Mourinho in an attacking sense is still that the quality of chance United are creating is not the best -- too often, we are seeing players static and not running ahead of the ball, so that the shots the players are taking are often out of desperation for lack of better options. Let us remember that this summer he signed the leading assist makers in three of Europe's leading leagues -- Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pogba and Ibrahimovic. If they are not performing to their best, he must take some tactical responsibility for that.

Javier Hernandez scored 20 goals in his first season at Manchester United in 2010-11.

Would Hernandez have scored 20 goals for the club this season?

SP: Possibly but probably not. In the past seven years, going from when he signed for United, he's reached that tally twice. The first time was his breakthrough season at United and the second was last season at Bayer Leverkusen. The sort of chances that United have missed this season though, the sort a poacher would likely put away, suggests he would have scored plenty at Old Trafford. However, it's important to remember that the reason why Louis van Gaal allowed him to leave was because the goals had been drying up. He had been missing penalties and open nets.

It's also worth remembering that Ibrahimovic plays 90 minutes every week, so the idea that Chicharito would get enough game time to score that many goals is fanciful.

MO: No, because he would not have been given the games. Ibrahimovic started ahead of Wayne Rooney because he is about as senior, in better form and a better point of reference for the attack, but Hernandez would have been competing with Marcus Rashford and Martial. More to the point, his link-up play is not nearly as good as that of the other forwards currently at Old Trafford, which would have hindered United's attack further. His game is suited to getting in behind the opponents' back four, but given the way that United play, particularly at home -- with teams dropping off them and allowing them plenty of possession -- it is unlikely that he would regularly have the type of opportunities that would have allowed him to thrive.

Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal sold Javier Hernandez to Bayer Leverkusen in 2015.

Was Louis van Gaal right to sell him?

SP: No. United didn't have any other strikers like him and he wasn't given a proper chance. While he was especially awful in the 4-0 defeat against MK Dons, it was foolish to let him go without a replacement. Hernandez also has a knack of scoring goals in big games too, which United could really do with. He was a popular player among the fanbase too because he worked so hard for the team. His lightening pace made him a real threat on the counter-attack, although Van Gaal would never have got the best out of him with the negative tactics he insisted on.

MO: At that point, yes -- because like Scott says, Van Gaal had done nothing to play to his strengths, and there was no sign of that ever changing. Moreover, Hernandez had done more than enough at club and international level to deserve a regular starting spot at a leading European team. He was too good to be a squad player, and in the right system he can be devastating, but at United he looked utterly devoid of confidence. His departure was United's loss, and his early form at Bayer Leverkusen showed that it was entirely the right move for him. 

Jose Mourinho has been left frustrated with his misfiring attack this season.

Would you take Hernandez back this summer?

SP: For a good price, yes. To sign him for £6 million ahead of the peak of his career made him one of United's best-ever value-for-money buys, so to pay a lot for him now, when he turns 29 this summer, wouldn't make sense. However, with one year left on his current contract, he should be affordable. It wouldn't be a great shame if a deal wasn't done though. There are better strikers than him but as a squad player, an option as a late sub, it'd probably be worth it. He would certainly feel as though he had a point to prove which should only inspire him to do well.

MO: No. I think that United need to buy players who are more versatile than Hernandez. Though he is an outstanding goal scorer, he is a limited playmaker, which means that the system must be adjusted for him. This also means that he is reasonably straightforward for elite teams to plan for -- so while he may score goals, the style of his play means that everything must go through him, which makes it easier for opposing teams to stop his fellow forwards.

What United need is greater fluidity in their front line, I think -- they need players who can play all across the front three, and as No. 10s. That is the best way to break down the best defences week in, week out.


Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.