Di Canio returns

Paolo Di Canio will join a sell-out crowd for the big Manchester United match on Saturday 2 April.

The Hammers great is hosting the club's Penthouse Suite, the ultimate corporate hospitality facility that accommodates up to 20 people and offers unrivalled views of the pitch. Guests can watch the pre-match build-up including the warm-up while they dine in luxury and style - and then have direct access to VIP padded Directors Box seating.

Other benefits of the Penthouse package at £499 per person plus VAT are:

• Open three hours before kick-off and for 90 minutes after the final whistle
• Serviced to highest standard
• Match programme and team sheets
• Plasma television screen
• Pre-match betting facility

Di Canio, who will also be paying a visit to the Paolo Di Canio Lounge named in his honour, will be hoping the team can emulate the 4-0 defeat of the title favourites in the Carling Cup earlier this season. The legendary No10 enjoyed many memorable matches against Sir Alex Ferguson's men during his own playing days, including one special afternoon at Old Trafford - as he recalled in an exclusive interview earlier this season with the matchday programme.

"Every footballer should want to play in the top-level matches," he said. "To play against Man United was always a special occasion for everyone at West Ham when I was playing - for the team, for the individual players. Certainly for me, too. Every time in these games you have to show your quality, your character and your professionalism."

Di Canio relished the chance to shine, to prove he deserved his place on the pitch with his peers. "When you play against the top players in the world, you can show how good you are. Always I played my best matches against the top clubs and one of these was Man United."

He is not wrong, either - with four goals in six matches against Ferguson's men. Most memorable was the winner at Old Trafford in an FA Cup tie back on back on 28 January 2001. The fourth-round contest looked bound for a Boleyn Ground replay before Di Canio went through on goal with 14 minutes to play.

Quick as a flash, France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez shot out an arm as if to say the goal was offside - a tactic designed purely to distract. The striker was not about to shirk his duty, though.

"I knew to carry on, absolutely," he said. "It comes from when I was young. I grew up in a very tough area in Rome where when you want to get something you have to try to do everything, even if someone stops you, to get it.

"In football, it was the same. At Old Trafford that day, there was the linesman and there was the referee who can both stop the move. But I didn't hear anything. I would not stop. I had to finish what I started and then look to see.

"There is a time to stop but it is not down to the goalkeeper to decide. That upbringing as a child helped me. Barthez was very clever because when you run the ball one v one without opponents around you, you are concentrated only on the goal and the goalkeeper.

"He tried to distract me but I was cleverer than him. I finished with the ball in the net and then the referee can say 'sorry Paolo offside' if he wants. I scored and then waited to see."

Di Canio's stream of consciousness as he recalled the goal that secured a 1-0 victory is rivalled only by his memories of the celebrations that followed - with 9,000 away fans delirious in the away end.

"The celebration was amazing. 9,000 people, 9,000 people! The celebration was incredible. The emotion as I ran to the corner flag was I felt in my body that a million West Ham fans were there on the pitch. In this moment, I felt like people all around the world were with me. I felt like a warrior that had no fear of dying.

"This is the perfect moment to die. Nothing can be better than this. The adrenalin rush through my veins, around my body was something else. This was the defining moment of my life. It was incredible, I didn't feel anything bad. No pain, no bad thoughts. It was like I was invincible. You know what I mean?"

To meet the man himself at the Manchester United match, call the corporate hospitality department right now on 0871 221 2700 or click here.