Sunday, 28th January 2001
Paolo Di Canio's 76th minute strike earned Harry Redknapp's 10-1 against Hammers victory against the runaway league leaders, to the delight of the 10,000 strong Hammers faithful.
The stage was set as the first coaches rolled out of Green Street and Priory Road at around 7am. Little were we to know then what a momentous day it would turn out to be. The mood amongst the supporters, travelling on the free coach service provided by the club was confident, but cautious. We knew what we were up against today; we hadn't won there for years, Harry Redknapp had never won there as West Ham manager. But there was still an optimism in the air that was hard to understand considering the fact that we had lost our last 11 matches on the spin at Old Trafford.
The enormous Hammers convey of 100+ coaches (plus hundreds of cars) snaked it's way into the Old Trafford complex by 1pm. Trouble (if there was any) wasn't evident around the ground; instead it was a good-natured crowd who descended upon the away end to take up their places in the huge ampitheatre.
By 2pm the away end was packed full and in fine voice. The whole reportoire was being directed upon those below; from 'Bubbles' to 'Blue Flag', and from 'Harry Redknapp's Claret and Blue Army' to old favourites like 'Chim Chimeney' - Man utd knew the Hammers were in town.
The game kicked off with West Ham getting stuck into their opponents straight away - just what we wanted to see. Barthez earned a round of gentle applause from the prawn sandwich brigade for a cheeky backheel in the first minute - little was he to know that he would end up as the villian of the piece.
The Hammers determination was beginning to take effect on the pitch; Kanoute, surging forward released Seb Schemmel on the right on 6 minutes but he could only blast over.
The home side picked themselves up after realising that they might have to work a bit if they were to win this one. Mikael Silvestre flashed a header wide from a Beckham free-kick after nine minutes, but it was their only real attempt of the opening period - testament to the hard graft of the Hammers midfield trio of Lampard, Cole and Carrick who were giving their opponents no time on the ball at all.
Hammers hearts were in their mouths on 15 minutes when the clearly unfit Shaka Hislop, attempting to clear a back pass made a terrible hash of it, skewing the ball back towards his own goal. Fortunately an alert Hannu Tihinen was there to clear off the line. It was West Ham's first big scare, and question marks were being asked about Hislop who was clearly in some discomfort following the burst cyst on his knee which had made him extremely doubtful for the game.
Fright over, Paolo Di Canio began to weave a little magic. His teasing run, past three players deep in the Man Utd half was ended abruptly by a harsh challenge from Roy Keane, who complained bitterly - as he always does - about the awarded free-kick (which came to nothing).
The home side had their best spell of the game at this point. Shaka Hislop was forced to make two good saves - one from a Beckham free-kick, and one from a Keane volley. But the longer West Ham kept them at bay, the more the confidence began to ooze through the team who began to play with the fluidity usually only reserved for Upton Park. The fact that the noise coming from the away end made the atmosphere feel like Upton Park probably helped - the fans were like a 12th man out there.
The half ended with Joe Cole testing Barthez from 20 yards out. 0-0 at half-time, and the mood amongst the Hammers crowd was definitely one of confidence now.
Upon half-time arriving, several members of the cast of popular northern soap Coronation Street who were dragged on the pitch to present some nondescript award. They were treated to a rousing chorus of 'East, East, Eastenders' from the Hammers faithful, who, for added good measure gave a chorus of 'Who the f*cking hell are you' - a song to which the bloke who plays spotty teenager Tyrone took great umbrage to.
The second half kicked off with Cole, Carrick and Lampard still giving Beckham and Keane the runaround. Beckham went into the book for a late tackle on Frank Lampard - possibly the first sign of frustration from the Man Utd player who knew that he was coming off second best.
Hearts were in Hammers mouths on 50 minutes when Hannu Tihinen was forced to save the day again, clearing off the line from a Sheringham shot. The tension was mounting at both ends; this was proving to be a cracking cup tie.
Man Utd's best opportunity came - and went - just five minutes later. Andy Cole's shot was well saved by Hislop, but the rebound fell perfectly for in-form Teddy Sheringham - who inexplicably blasted well over with an open goal ahead of him. Maybe it was going to be our day after all?
The next few exchanges were fairly even; Cole and Schemmel went close for the Hammers, whilst at the other end Cole and Giggs spurned opportunities.
But with 15 minutes to go the game was still deadlocked.
And then a moment that Hammers fans everywhere will cherish for many a day.
West Ham probed deep into Man Utd territory, and Freddy Kanoute received the ball on the left. He held the ball up just enough to allow Paolo Di Canio to dart between two defenders before threading a beautifully weighted pass beyond the home side's rearguard.
With the Man Utd defence static appealing for offside (which it definitely wasn't) Di Canio nipped in to approach Barthez on a one-on-one. Barthez, for reasons only known to himself stood with arm aloft, as if to try and trick Di Canio into thinking the flag had been raised.
But Paolo was having none of it. He brought the ball under control, calmly switched from left foot to right before poking the ball beyond Barthez to send the Hammers into dreamland. The away end went mental - the Stretford end was silenced.
So we all knew what would happen now. Fourteen minutes (plus four for stoppages) were all that lay between West Ham and glory. We had to defend like lions - which is exactly what we did.
Man utd lay siege to our goal, and in a way it was reminiscent of that day in 1992 when we stopped them winning the title. They threw everything but the kitchen sink at us in a quest for an equaliser, but we were having none of it. Tihinen, Dailly, Pearce, Schemmel and Winterburn were resolute; we camped in our own penalty box for the final few minutes but there was no way they were getting through.
And then, all of a sudden, it was over. Durkin realised that he couldn't justify playing another second despite the protestations of Ferguson on the touchline, and blew for time. We had done it - we had beaten them on their own turf, against their best possible team in the best bloody tournament - the FA Cup. Complete strangers were hugging like old friends in the away end; it was a wonderful scene for anyone associated with West Ham.
The players joined the fans to start the celebrations which would continue long into the small hours. Harry Redknapp said simply: "This is the best win of my managerial career". How right you are Harry.
The away fans were held back for around 30 minutes - not that we cared.
Instead it was the chance to bring out some old favourites like 'Jingle Bells' and the aforementioned 'Chim Chimeny'. Still no 'Knees up Mother Brown' though - it's been a long time since I've heard that away from home.
More p*ss-taking ensued with 'Can We Play You Every Week' and 'Stick Your Treble Up Your A*se'.
This report wouldn't be complete without a word on the officials. Messrs Durkin, Drysdale and Gould were an absolute bloody disgrace today. I don't recall seeing so much bias in one game of football ever, and that includes the infamous Mr.Hackett. West Ham may have had a 12th player in the fans, but Man Utd had 14 with the dreadful officials.
Where on earth Durkin got three minutes of first half injury time from I'll never know. Time after time he gave the benefit of the doubt to the home side, obviously swayed by the baying crowd. One moment stands in the memory; a second half Tihinen tackle on the edge of our box was initially waved on by Durkin before he sensed the crowd's ire and gave Man Utd a free kick 20 yeards from goal. Disgraceful.
And Alex Ferguson? What a miserable b*stard, I just can't find words to describe the man. We came to his ground, turned his team over fair and square and still he couldn't be gracious enough to accept that West Ham were simply the better side on the day. The pitch took some stick as did the officials (amazingly) AND his defenders for allowing Di Canio to score, but nowhere was there any praise for the Hammer's performance.
Not that we give a monkeys now. The day was ours, and will go down in memory alongside our other great performances. It is a game that in years to come will be talked about in the same breath as the likes of Wembley in '64, '65, '75 and '80. I just hope that those of you lucky enough to be there, amongst the 10,000 or so travelling contingent took in every moment - because it is a memory that will stay with you for the rest of your days.
* One poor Man Utd fan's misery was compounded when his van was attacked by a bunch of his OWN fans who believed that they were attacking a West Ham vehicle. Apparently it was only when the occupant of the vehicle emerged in a state of shock wearing a David Beckham number seven shirt that his foolish attackers stopped smashing the van to pieces ...
Player Ratings (out of ten):
Shaka Hislop (9) - Shaka was clearly unable to kick the ball and had many Hammers fans crying out for the introduction of Craig Forrest. But after a couple of first-half glitches our Neil was superb - his gloves must have had superglue on them because everything that came his way stuck.
Sebastien Schemmel (9) - That's two games and two very solid performances from the Frenchman. Doesn't come close to Trevor Sinclair for attacking skills - his only errors on the day were his weak crosses - but boy, can he defend. Had a torrid time against Giggs in the first half but regained his composure at the break to cancel out the flying winger in the second period.
Nigel WInterburn (10) - A performance that should be shown to any youngster wishing to make his name in football. Forget his age, Nige was a collosus out there today. He gave us an added attacking option on the left (more so in the second half) but it was for his three vital last-ditch tackles inside our own area in the final ten minutes that earn him our Man of the Match award.
Stuart Pearce (9) - What a player. Harry Redknapp says it every week - but he's right. Pearce just seems to get better and better; he marshalled the Hammers rearguard and constantly barked his orders to keep his troops alert and in check. Would have got 10 but for his (occasional) poor distribution.
Hannu Tihinen (10) - I can't honestly remember this lad putting a foot wrong. Twice he was there at the right time to clear off the line and avert danger, whilst offering the kind of performance which must have Harry Redknapp and Terence Brown scrambling for the cheque book before any other bugger sees how good he actually is.
Christian Dailly (9) - Watching the former Blackburn man in action yesterday it is hard to believe that he has only been part of the club for little more than a week. He gave everything for the cause and was there when it mattered, making several important interceptions in the final few minutes to preserve our slender lead.
Frank Lampard (10) - Frank's best performance this season by a country mile. This was Lampard at his best; he, along with the other two members of the midfield triumverant harried and chased Man Utd all over the park, never allowing them any time on the ball, which is the key to beating them. His distribution (in general) was perfect. DId you see his face at the end of the game? Who says he doesn't love this club.
Joe Cole (10) - It is hard to find words which could aptly describe the performance of Joe Cole today; he was absolutely awesome. Has a great battle with David Beckham which he won hands down, but despite his tenacious effort there was still time for a bit of the old Cole magic - the backheel on the touchline to Freddy Kanoute was just pure genius.
Michael Carrick (10) - Pushed Nigel Winterburn very close for Man of the Match. This was like turning the clock back 20 years and watching the great man Trevor Brooking at his best. Carrick passes the ball for fun - and he's still only 19! Defining moment of his performance was the little skip between two Man Utd players in the first half which even brought applause from the home fans. Mr.Eriksson will have been very impressed.
Frederic Kanoute (9) - Freddy, like Shaka was also clearly struggling, and far from 100%. Still he managed to lead the Man Utd rearguard a merry dance for much of the game - it's beautiful to watch a player like that when they're full of confidence. And the pass for Di Canio's goal was weighted to perfection.
Paolo Di Canio (10) - Upon returning home we watched the game on TV and I couldn't believe that Ron Atkinson criticised his workrate. Di Canio, playing in a slightly withdrawn role ran his nuts off, and received his reward with the goal that sent us into the next round. Paolo Di Canio, you are a legend.
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