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1-0 to the Real United
The unbelievable has happened - A West Ham team goes to Old Trafford, plays like it thinks it can get a result, and does! When the draw for the fourth round was made, I thought that was the end of our cup hopes this season, especially coming so soon after the New Year’s Day mauling up there, but here we are in the fifth round.
It seems that some lessons may have been learned from that earlier game, and this time we adopted a more positive approach, and worked hard to close down the Mancers when they had possession. This was a superb all-round team performance, and though we rode our luck at times, the win was deserved.
Di Canio famously wrote in his autobiography that Stam would have to mow down an opposing forward with a machine gun to concede a penalty at Old Trafford, yet today the referee was undeniably generous towards us with his interpretation of accidental handball. Dailly in the first half and Winterburn in the second were both lucky to escape. It’s said that these things even themselves out over the season, and perhaps this makes up for the Sunderland match a couple of weeks ago.
We also had a very lucky escape when Sheringham missed an open goal after Shaka had saved an Andy Cole effort, and the team in red created the best chances over the course of the game. However, as we’ve discovered to our cost several times this season, if you miss chances, you can get caught out.
The goal when it came had that element of the unusual that tends to characterise those scored by Di Canio. An excellent diagonal run kept him just onside to receive Freddie’s through ball, while the Manc defence stood with arms raised in a way rather reminiscent of Arsenal defences. Paolo calmly slotted the ball past Barthez, who bizarrely kept his arm up until the ball was virtually past him. I suspect Mr Ferguson will have a word or two to say to him about that.
I said above that this was an excellent team performance, and I must include in that statement the 9,000 travelling supporters, who were absolutely magnificent. The atmosphere they generated was very apparent to those of us watching at home, and must have helped the players to survive those last hectic minutes. No prawn sandwiches in the away section Mr Keane! Well done to everyone who made the trip. I should also mention that, for once, the club did something for the fans by providing free coaches to the game. If this is the result, they should do it for every away game!