Manchester United V West Ham

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Match Report
Saturday 21st April 2001
Upton Park
Referee: Graham Poll

Harry Redknapp paid tribute to his heroic Hammers after they produced a magnificent fighting performance to pull off an amazing result at Old Trafford that will go down as one of the greatest days in the club's recent history.

Said H: "It's been difficult to come here over the years and get a result. I'm delighted with the performance and the attitude we showed. It's a great result, we were magnificent.

"I've had to take it on the chin when we've come here and taken a couple of beltings, but that wasn't the case today.

"With the system we decided to play, Joe Cole and Paolo Di Canio had to do jobs which were not in their nature. They had to come back and defend and I asked them to keep the team balanced, which they both did fantastically.

"Hannu Tihinen was excellent and I was very pleased with Christian Dailly, who gave us some pace at the back. But today wasn't about individuals, it was a great team performance.

"We'd kept them at full stretch when we'd gone on the break and at half-time with it goalless I was still pretty positive."

Harry also praised match-winner Paolo Di Canio, who ignored the attempt by Fabien Barthez to confuse the Italian into thinking he had been flagged offside.

"Paolo showed he is a clinical finisher. Fabien Barthez might have been trying to psyche him out, saying it was offside, but nothing bothers Paolo. You wouldn't want anyone else in that position. But then again, Paolo's been positive about coming here all week. In fact, we all have.

"Manchester United are a fantastic team and I wanted us to come and compete and not do what we did on New Year's Day when we just stood off admiring them.

"Alex Ferguson certainly wasn't taking the cup lightly this year and, apart from Scholes, he had a full-strength team, where as I had a couple of loan signings and Fredi Kanoute, my only real striker, struggling with an injury."

The boss also revealed that a few battle cries beforehand had added extra confidence to his side's preparations: "I said: 'If we're gonna go down, we've got to go down fighting.' We had a real go for the supporters. They were fantastic for us today.

"We were 10-1 to win today, but I didn't have a bet, because if I had have done, we'd have lost!"

But just minutes after completing their quite remarkable victory over the League Champions, it was revealed that the Hammers will have to produce an equally determined performance in the fifth round to progress further in the competition, after they were drawn away at Sunderland.

However, that news will not dampen the celebrations of our triumphant supporters, who watched their team match United all the way and secure a famous win with a goal from Paolo Di Canio 13 minutes from time.

The home side had unsurprisingly enjoyed the majority of the possession throughout the 90 minutes, but with twin strikeforce Teddy Sheringham and Andy Cole looking out of sorts, a shock became more possible as the game progressed.

Harry Redknapp fielded an unchanged line-up from the side that drew with Charlton last week, with the exception of Stuart Pearce, who returned from suspension to replace Rigobert Song - on international duty with Cameroon.

And the veteran defender was one of 11 claret and blue heroes who proved that, on their day, they are a match for any side in the country.

The Hammers looked a completely different outfit from the team that had rolled over at Old Trafford in the league on New Year's Day, although their attacking options that day were limited by the absence of Paolo Di Canio and Joe Cole.

This time, both the exciting playmakers started, and played a major part in our first win at Old Trafford since August 1986 when two goals from Frank McAvennie and one from Alan Devonshire secured a 3-2 victory.

Earlier that year, the Hammers had also knocked United out of the FA Cup on their own patch - a result that wasn't expected to be repeated 15 years later.

From the first minute of this pulsating cup tie, it was clear that the Hammers' defenders would be made to work overtime for their wages, as Giggs and Beckham produced their usual level of hard-work and pure quality on the flanks.

But they were matched by the spirit of their opponents, who harried, chased and contested every ball from the first minute to the last and, crucially, kept their composure when in possession, at times producing the type of flowing football that the Old Trafford faithful are more used to seeing from their own team.

Our attempts at goal, especially in the first half, very rarely threatened to cause an upset, but Paolo Di Canio waved his magic wand when it mattered most.

With 13 minutes remaining, Kanoute picked the ball up some 30 yards out, dropped his shoulder in front of Stam and threaded a ball through as he spotted the run of Di Canio.

With the home crowd baying for an offside flag, the linesman admirably held his nerve and gave the Italian licence to bear down on Barthez.

With the French number one expecting referee Durkin to help him out, Di Canio cooly slotted home before turning back to check if dreams had turned to reality.

One split-second of doubt seemed to last an eternity, but Durkin's run towards the centre circle confirmed the wonderful truth and Di Canio ran away to celebrate with his adoring fans.

What followed was 13 minutes - plus another four added on at the end - of nailbiting, screaming and sheer desperation from the Hammers fans desperate for a final whistle.

And their heroes didn't falter. Despite the introduction of Solskjaer and Yorke alongside Sheringham and Cole, United's four-pronged attack just couldn't break down our solid rearguard and talented midfield trio Cole, Carrick and Lampard kept their heads while all around were losing theirs.

One particular tabloid reporter certainly won't be claiming that the three England hopefuls 'froze like rabbits in the headlights of a lorry' this time around, and they were joined by eight others who played as if their life depended on it.

As the final whistle blew, it was hard to believe that the Hammers had achieved what many critics had labelled unachievable, but as the players took their deserved acclaim from the away supporters, being a West Ham fan at that moment was certainly the best feeling in the world.

It wasn't a lucky victory, it wasn't undeserved, and it was carried out in the traditional West Ham way.

Travelling to the Stadium of Light in a few weeks will provide just as stern a test for Harry Redknapp's men, but this performance will ensure that fear certainly won't be necessary against the Wearsiders.