x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Hernandez humbled by his rise

Mexican's family and religious beliefs ensure he is not getting carried away after an extraordinary first season at Manchester United.

The Mexican striker pays tribute to his family following his breakthrough season

Javier Hernandez has the perfect role models to help him keep his feet on the ground after a flying start to his Manchester United career.

A virtual unknown when he was unveiled by Sir Alex Ferguson 12 months ago, Hernandez has proved to be the buy of the season.

Twenty goals in his debut campaign helped Manchester United secure their record 19th league title and ease them into tonight's Champions League final clash with Barcelona. His partnership with Wayne Rooney is a cause of genuine concern for Barcelona.

"You know that when you play a final, especially against a team like United, that you're playing against some of the best strikers in the world," Javier Mascherano said. "Rooney and Chicharito [Hernandez] have enormous quality."

The chances of Hernandez getting carried away by such plaudits are remote.

His strong religious conviction helps, as does the influence of his father, Javier Hernandez Gutierrez, and his grandfather, Tomas Balcazar, both of whom played for their country.

"My father and grandfather have given me a lot of advice about my game," Hernandez is quoted as saying in the official match programme. "They were also attacking players, so they have helped me a great deal.

"But they have helped me even more off the pitch because that is the most difficult part.

"With young football players there is a lot of money and other things that can put you off balance. We start at a very young age in this profession. I am only 22."

His father and grandfather, he said, have helped keep him grounded.

"My family have made sure I have stayed down to earth. I am a person first before a footballer," he said. "I don't feel bigger than anybody, despite any goals, success or medals."

Hernandez concurred with Ferguson's initial view that his £7 million (Dh42,229m) capture from Mexican club Chivas would be used sparingly this term.

A freak goal in the Community Shield made the integration easier and while not prolific, Hernandez's contributions until the turn of the year were enough to get him on the bench regularly.

However, when his introduction for Rooney against Blackpool in January inspired a memorable comeback, Ferguson started to think Hernandez could not be ignored any longer.

The goals started to mount. Crucially, Rooney also responded, clearly relishing Hernandez's extreme pace and the additional space it provided against defences now on the back foot.

"This first year has been marvellous," Hernandez said. "Nobody expected this. I never imagined that I would play this much and the goals I have scored are all really a consequence of that.

"I don't like talking about myself and don't want to seem arrogant. But you will always see a player who exhausts himself on the pitch, who is always running.

"There are good and bad matches in football but I have always given my best and I will never give up fighting and running."

After virtually 12 months non-stop football and a Gold Cup campaign with Mexico to come in the summer, Ferguson has said he may be forced to give Hernandez a break rather than take him on United's pre-season tour of North America as originally planned.

He will go back home with a Premier League winner's medal, and possibly one from the Champions League as well, with United guaranteed backing from the football-mad Mexican fans.

"I watched football from all over the world but the [European] Champions League is the biggest club competition in Mexico," he said. "The best teams from all the leagues are in it. To experience it and play in the final is marvellous."

* Press Association