Sir Alex Ferguson admits Manchester United match-winner Javier Hernandez’s rapid transition to English football has taken him by surprise.
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Hernandez’s 19th goal of the season provided Manchester United with an 84th-minute winner against Everton at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon that puts them within touching distance of a record 19th league title.
The Mexican has already established himself as a regular member of Ferguson’s first-choice starting line-up, which even the Scot did not expect when he lured the 22-year-old to England from Mexican outfit Chivas this summer.
"Javier has done better than everyone expected," said Ferguson.
"We thought that because it was his first year, he would just get used to the English game and get strengthened up.
"He has passed all those tests.
"He is first in, at 9am every morning. He is last to leave. He is a truly dedicated boy."
Hernandez certainly has the priceless knack of scoring goals.
He has scored in six of United’s last 12 games and in 16 matches overall this season, compared with Dimitar Berbatov, whose 22 have come in just 10 games.
The contribution pushed the Red Devils a bit closer to their Holy Grail as he headed home Antonio Valencia’s cross to leave United seven points from the championship at the start of a fortnight that also includes a Champions League semi-final with Schalke and back-to-back Premier League encounters with Arsenal and Chelsea.
"The thing that puzzles me is they (the media) keep saying Arsenal and Chelsea have got to play us still, like we’re going to lose them. Why shouldn’t we win those games?
"As I said to the players, forget all that nonsense. Just try to win your games and you’ll be all right, keep your heads and don’t get carried away.
"Fixtures are running out for our rivals and the squad are up for it.
"I enjoy this critical stage of a season when we are involved in big games that come think and fast and I think we will be okay."
They should be now after Hernandez came to the rescue. Not that Ferguson had any doubts.
"Everton were very resilient and some of their defending was fantastic," he said.
"Their goalkeeper made two or three great saves and you say to yourself ‘this is going to be another late one’.
"But you can smell the history of the club and I could feel the goal was going to come."
After resting skipper Nemanja Vidic and making five changes to his starting line-up, Ferguson reported no injury concerns ahead of Tuesday’s first-leg with Schalke at the Vetlins Arena.
The result virtually ends Everton’s already outside hopes of securing a Europa League berth for next season.
Toffees boss David Moyes said he had no complaints about a couple of penalty calls that did not go his side’s way when Jermaine Beckford and substitute Victor Anichebe went down under pressure from Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand.
However, he could not enthuse about Hernandez in the same manner Ferguson had done.
"None," responded the Scot when asked for his thoughts on the Mexican’s performance.
"He is not my player. I just wish he hadn’t got into that position.
"I couldn’t say we played well. We didn’t. But there are different sides to football and for 85 minutes it looked as though we had done our job very well."