United are reaping the benefits of taking a protective, long-term view on Javier Hernandez’s form, fitness and physique, according to Sir Alex Ferguson, who was keen to avoid the neglect shown in the technical and physical development early in the career of Michael Owen.
Chicharito was afforded a rare period of rest at the end of last season and throughout summer 2012 and subsequently looks fresh, is firing in the goals and staking a convincing claim to a regular place in the first-team, as either starter or substitute.
Hernandez scored 20 goals in his debut season in English football following a move from Chivas de Guadalajara in 2010. He collected a title winners’ medal, earned a starting place in the Champions League final at Wembley and won the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award.
His second season wasn’t as prolific with a return of 12 goals. Sir Alex and his coaching staff quickly identified a need for an extended rest. “When we examined his previous summers the answer was there,” Sir Alex told reporters on Friday. “You can play too much football, there’s no doubt about that.”
Sir Alex said former Reds striker Michael Owen experienced similar overexposure to matches as a younger player, which hindered his development. “It’s an issue particularly with young players who are growing and developing physically. I think that’s exactly what happened with Michael. He would have been a far better player if he had been allowed to improve technically and develop himself as a younger player rather than playing all the time.
“England’s youth team played in a tournament in Malaysia one year and we had two players in the team at that time – [John] Curtis and [Ronnie] Wallwork – and we gave them a month’s rest when they came back. Liverpool put Michael straight in the first team, and the following year he was at the World Cup. So he never had a summer break. I also don’t think he was allowed to develop technically, as he said to me himself when I discussed it with him. That’s what I always felt about him. You have young players who are developing and you have to consider when you get a rest. There’s only one time they can develop physically and that is in the summer. You’re not going to develop in the middle of winter.
“Michael was a great player anyway, so it’s maybe a bit churlish to say that is the reason he wasn’t better or something like that. I think he would have been better technically, but he was still a fantastic player.”
Hernandez, however, has clearly profited from his rest and Sir Alex says the budding attributes that alerted United to his potential in the first place are beginning to blossom.