JAVIER HERNANDEZ is likely to be denied his first ever hat-trick at Manchester United but departed Villa Park with an arguably more significant reward than the signed match ball clutched under his arm.
HERNANDEZ may fall foul of the dubious goals panel this week but nothing will deprive him of a starting place at Norwich City next Saturday after his patience was rewarded with a sublime cameo that only served to increase the comparisons with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
It has been a frustrating 18 months for the Mexican at Old Trafford, in which last season he slipped into the shadows after struggling to reach the same heights as his breakthrough campaign.
The arrival of Robin van Persie in the summer could have ensured he gathered further dust on the substitutes' bench but despite the formidable armoury Alex Ferguson has at his disposal, nobody comes close to the predatory instincts of Hernandez.
This latest nudge in the ribs for his manager takes him only three goals behind Van Persie and will earn him his second Premier League start of the season next weekend.
His impact against Aston Villa may not have been as spectacular as Solskjaer's four goals in 10 minutes against Nottingham Forest more than a decade ago but was crucial in helping claim the latest comeback win for United's growing collection this season.
Hernandez also helped ease the scrutiny that would have focused on United's defence if they had failed to claw their way back into the game. On Friday, Ferguson claimed his team could score 100 goals this season and they might have to if they continue to display such a propensity to concede.
Hernandez's devastating contribution enabled United's defence to avoid a more severe post-mortem.
"He works so hard on the training ground and you can see he's got so many goals this year from just coming on," Smalling said.
United's win was their eighth win in nine matches but only two clean sheets in the league this season is clearly a concern.