With rumours flying around that Javier Hernandez, as he continues his ludicrous goalscoring form for Mexico, is disappointed with his lack of game-time at Manchester United, it's hard not to sympathise. After a more difficult second season, Hernandez found game-time harder to come by in his third, yet excelled every time he took to the pitch. It's worth asking why exactly he's not been getting as many minutes as a player of his ability should.
One of the flaws with Hernandez was often stated to be his severely limited game - he was a goalscorer, and little else. This idea has been much in vogue lately, with the idea of the 'death of the poacher' gaining ground. In the argument's most ridiculous guise, Ruud van Nistelrooy, United's outstanding performer for the entire time he was at the club, was blamed for their failure to only secure one title in that period. Hernandez, it seems, is getting the same treatment.
This overlooks the fact that Hernandez's all-round game has developed hugely in the past couple of seasons. The hard work and energy has always been there, but an improved touch and vision, and excelling at holding the ball up have meant that the old criticisms are no longer legitimate. Hernandez is not a great goalscorer anymore - he is, of course, but the moniker doesn't do him justice. He is, simply, an excellent and all-round forward who just happens to score shedloads of goals.
The excellent BeautifullyRed, Manchester United's GIF archivist, has documented a few of these moments, showing Hernandez's ability with his back to goal. There was his skilful turn-and-nutmeg on the last game of the season, his superb hold-up play and pass against Braga, and two moments from Galatasaray, first a solo run after dropping deep, and then some excellent link-up play with Danny Welbeck.
His play has now developed to the point where it would be silly for United to continue using him as a mere impact substitute. In terms of goals per minute, no other striker in the Premier League is more lethal. Another overlooked feature of Hernandez is his remarkable consistency - Robin van Persie only had one black mark on his first year in a United shirt, but it was a major one - the fact that his goals completely dried up during the period when he was most needed, most exemplified by a pair of glaring misses that robbed United of a victory over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Hernandez simply does not go through such lengthy droughts.
A combination of a surplus of forwards and a decline in form of wingers means that United have increasingly been moving towards a fluid frontline more reminiscent of the side that won the 2008 Champions League, and Hernandez is no longer ruled out by such a system. His hard-work, tactical discipline, ability with the ball at his feet and team play means he could easily thrive in such a system.
Aside from anything else, the notion that Hernandez should be replaced by Robert Lewandowski makes little economic sense. It would be a small upgrade for £25m when so many other areas of the squad are going begging. That seems to have fallen through, but the real competitor for Hernandez has been Wayne Rooney, and here we see other problems.
While Rooney could certainly be headed for the exit door, the entire problem focuses around the fact that he is on the sort of wages where it would never be economical to leave him on the bench, despite the fact that his performances frequently warrant it. Van Persie-Hernandez should really be United's first-choice strike partnership on form, but Rooney not playing simply means that £250,000 has been poured down the drain. It's hard to ignore.
There is little to suggest that David Moyes is a sentimental man, but if he does patch things up with Rooney and extend an olive branch to the striker, he may feel compelled to start him in games even if his form cannot back up that right. This has to be avoided at all costs, for the sake of Hernandez. It's not often that a player is linked with a move away from United because of a lack of first-team action and his suitors include Real Madrid and Juventus, and that's indicative of how much United would be losing to permit him to leave.