United looks to Hernandez to help catch Chelsea

Javier Hernandez’s strong start at Manchester United is increasing the weight of expectation on him as Wayne Rooney struggles with fitness and form.

By (AP)

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Published: Thu 28 Oct 2010, 8:55 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:40 AM

The 22-year-old Mexico striker has scored three goals in his last two games to help earn victories over Stoke in the Premier League and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the League Cup.

But the offseason recruit could face his toughest domestic test yet against Tottenham on Saturday — the first time he has faced one of last season’s top four in a league encounter.

United signed Hernandez from Mexican club Guadalajara before impressing for Mexico at the World Cup.

“It’s obviously early days for him but he’s made a really good impression at the club,” said fellow striker Michael Owen, who is out with a hamstring injury. “He’s young, sharp and a good finisher. He seems to be thriving. He’s always got a smile on his face. He enjoys his football and the fans have taken to him already.”

United is five points adrift of leader Chelsea, with the 18-time champions tied on 17 points with Arsenal and Manchester City.

Tottenham, which is a further two points behind in fifth, has not won at United since 1989. But playmaker Luka Modric was encouraged by the way his team scored three second-half goals in the 4-3 loss to Inter Milan in the Champions League last week.

“We showed against Inter in the second half that we can compete with the best teams in the world and United is certainly one of the best teams in the world,” Modric said. “I know Tottenham haven’t won at Old Trafford for a long time, so why not now?”

The top five teams are all in action on Saturday: Arsenal hosts West Ham, Man City goes to Wolves and Chelsea is at Blackburn.

Chelsea captain John Terry preparing for a physical contest at Ewood Park.

“We’ve got to go there and have a fight with them,” Terry said. “We have to be prepared for a scrap.”

Man City, which is looking to rebound from its 2-0 loss to Arsenal, will be hoping that Wolves are exhausted from their losses to Chelsea and Man United over the last week.

“We just need to forget about this game,” City defender Kolo Toure said. “It’s been a difficult week — it’s always hard against a team like Arsenal.”

Not only did that win raise Arsenal’s title hopes, but the London club was then boosted Wednesday by the return of Theo Walcott from an ankle injury.

The England winger returned after almost two months out by scoring twice in a 4-0 League Cup win over Newcastle.

But going into the West Ham match, manager Arsene Wenger remains concerned that Walcott’s speed may be causing his injuries.

“At his pace, when you get stopped, you are always vulnerable,” Wenger said. “He got one or two tackles (at Newcastle) and he got away with it because he did not have his full weight on his standing leg ... when you play against a player who is so quick, sometimes you can mistime tackles.”

West Ham, which lost last weekend at home to Newcastle, is in desperate need of a win at the Emirates Stadium to move off the bottom of the standings. But manager Avram Grant insists that West Ham’s prospects are improving.

“Even on Saturday, we started the game like a top team then someone pushed a button and we stopped,” Grant said. “We have a plan and a project for many years, and I think we’re doing the right things. We just need to be more stable.”

Wolves is level with West Ham on six points but has a superior goal difference.

Liverpool, which is at Bolton on Sunday, is three points further ahead but still in the relegation zone and having to fight off claims that its best players want to leave.

Goalkeeper Jose Reina has been linked with a move to Man United.

“He is a lifeblood of this team,” Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson said. “He is a player who we hold in the highest esteem. We have heard nothing from Manchester United and, more to the point, we don’t want to hear anything from Manchester United.”

Fulham, which also has nine points, hosts Wigan on Saturday, while Stoke is at Everton. There are two derbies on Sunday with Aston Villa hosting Birmingham and Sunderland making the short trip to Newcastle.

Surprise package West Bromwich Albion, which is sixth, plays at Blackpool in Monday’s only match.

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