United's Hernandez on a sting and a prayer
Published 23:00 05/01/11 By David Maddock
Manchester United's latest goalscoring sensation has revealed that the power of prayer is behind his dramatic rise to fame.
Javier Hernandez is a committed Christian who prays on the pitch before every game, to thank God for the helping realise his dreams.
But the deep-thinking Mexican centre-forward is far from selfish in his demands on the almighty.
Hernandez, or Chico as he is known at Old Trafford, also asks before every match for God to look out for his team mates and the opposition, and keep them from serious injury on the pitch.
It certainly seems to work.
The 20-year-old has burst on the scene with a remarkable nine goals already in his debut season, the latest coming through a fine strike against Stoke on Tuesday night.
And the talented striker is not afraid to admit that his faith is a large part of his game.
“I always pray on the pitch before a game. It is an important routine for me but it is not superstition,” he explained.
“I like to pray. I talk to God and I tell him to take care of the health of both teams because the worse thing for a sportsman are injuries and there are a lot of accidents on the pitch that nobody wants.
“I like to ask God to take care of me, because he gave me the opportunity to play.”
The approach of Hernandez is refreshing in the cynical modern era of football. He seems unaffected by fame, despite his elevated status at Old Trafford.
But he comes from good football stock. Both his father and grandfather played professional football in Mexico, and he admits that their experience has given him a perfect grounding to deal with the attention.
United fans are already calling him the new Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and while he admits that is massively flattering, he is not about to get carried away just yet.
“Of course it is flattering, because Ole is is a legend at Manchester United. Usually people compare me to my dad or grandad,” he said. “I’m only 10 per cent of what Ole was. I need to work harder and keep improving to became like him.
“Obviously my dad and grandpa were both former players in Mexico but the biggest advice they give me is away from the pitch - to be careful of bad influences and bad people. I am their son and grandson so naturally they want the best for me.
“I am enjoying my life in Manchester. My family have told me the fans have a new song about me [‘Chico is the man and he scores goals from anywhere’] I need to listen to the song and I need to thank the guy who wrote it.”
While Hernandez refuses to get carried away by the inevitable hype surrounding him, United's manager is also impressed by him.
Alex Ferguson said: “The kid is a fantastic talent, and he is also very hungry to learn, which is impressive. He works hard in training and he picks things up quickly.
“We have worked hard with him this season, and he has progressed. We keep saying to the strikers to get across the front post and Chici did that against Stoke, and got a reward for it.
“He picked up what we were working on, and he’s already good at doing that now, getting across the front post - and for all of us it was a pleasing finish.”
Team-mate Nani, who returned to action for United on Tuesday after injury with a fine match-winning goal, insisted that the talent of the Mexican can help inspire the Red Devils towards an unbeaten season.
United have still to lose in the Premier League after 20 matches, and the confident winger believes he and his team-mates have a chance to emulate Arsenal and become the new 'Invincibles' by going through the entire league campaign unbeaten.
"“I hope we can," he said. "We are in a great position. We have been doing so well.
“We have to keep working hard and doing the same things. Providing we stay together I feel we will finish the season with something very special.
“We have some fine players, and Javier has had a great start to his Manchester United career.He always scores at the right moment, when we need it. He has been a key player this season.”