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SOCCER

Chicharito under pressure to produce for Man U.

By Gabriel Mesa - Aug 05, 2014

For the second straight year, the Guinness International Champions Cup final came to Miami to show off world class clubs to the United States. The tournament allows the clubs to get some preseason games in while building their brand overseas as the sport grows here in the United States. These friendlies allow teams to test young talent and prepare for their upcoming seasons. But the two most impressive teams were the ones with something to play for, Liverpool and Manchester United. The two top-class English Premier League clubs faced off for the ICC final, each with a different mindset entering the tourney.

Liverpool entered this tournament looking to come back after a late season collapse that cost them the EPL title. They will also try to replace the EPL Player of the Year, Luis Suarez, who forced a sale to Barcelona. With a handful of new players, including English national team player Adam Lallana, Liverpool will hope to stay in contention this season and avoid the fate of Tottenham, who failed to capitalize on the sale of their star, Gareth Bale, last season. But with young stars in the making like Raheem Sterling, who manager Brendan Rodgers calls “a real talent, with his speed and on the ball” even at the ripe age of 19, the future is very bright for Liverpool.

 

Manchester United are coming off a failure of a season that saw them finish 7th in the EPL in their first season without legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson. In comes Louis Van Gaal, who comes off another impressive World Cup run as the head of the Netherlands. With a new 3-5-2 formation and some new, young talent to infuse the Red Devils, United have seemed to regain their form here in the US. The team is playing with a renewed spirit, as each player vies for their spot on not just the starting 11 but the team as well.

 

No player knows this pressure better than Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. After a disappointing season last year and a bench role for his country in the World Cup, there was a lot of talk of the potential role he might have this year, if any. There is still a future for the young Mexican forward at United, but everyone wants him to and is waiting for him to improve.

 

When asked about Chicharito, Spanish midfielder Juan Mata said “I’d like to play with him. He’s a very good player.” Van Gaal explained that “every player has a contribution” and that Chicharito must build on his talent and stay consistent.  

 

In two games so far, Chicharito is making a strong case to stay in Old Trafford. A goal off the bench against Real Madrid earned him a starting spot in the final alongside Wayne Rooney. Hernandez whiffed on a shot right in front of goal to start the game and later mistimed a header on another potential goal. But he kept putting himself in attacking position and it paid off when he played a beautiful cross in to Rooney who slotted the ball into the side net to tie the game up at 1. Thanks to his effort, Manchester United was able to rally and dominated the second half, scoring two more goals and winning the tournament. While Rooney deserved Man of the Match honors, Chicharito deserves an honorable mention for his play.  

 

With the 3-1 victory and the first trophy under the new regime of Van Gaal, Manchester United look to continue the momentum toward the start of the season later this month. To him and the fans, the preseason win means little, but “it is better to win in training and carry it into the first game.” The question now remains what type of roles Hispanic players like Antonio Valencia (left the match due to injury, not major) and Hernandez will have under their new manager.

 

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