So, a brief postscript to yesterday’s blog.
A great game tonight: West Ham 2 Man Utd 2. Utd took control, early on and Tom Cleverley found himself in space to slot in the opener. A well taken and created goal. Starting from a magisterial pass from Paul Scholes. If only he still, even in his mid thirties, stopped putting in those cynical hacks, knowing the referees will let him get away with it for a while.
It didn’t look good for West Ham, but then Joe Cole – yes, Joe Cole! – found space on the left, whipped in a brilliant cross, and centre back James Collins rose above the Man U defence to glance it into the net. 1-1! Second half, it happened again. Almost identical. A cross from Joe and Collins on the end of it. 2-1!
At this point I assumed the Man Utd comeback would begin and we would probably lose 3-2. Two reasons: (1) the natural pessimism of the football supporter and (2) the fact that Man Utd do come back so often. They KNOW they will, and so do the opposition.
So I waited. But it wasn’t happening. West Ham were the better side, United disjointed, lethargic, even when Van Persie, Valencia and Giggs came on. West Ham were well organised in defence and still dangerous on the attack. A victory looked on. Into added-on time – four minutes of course with Man Utd still behind. What all other supporters know as Fergie Time.
And then the inevitable. A superb long pass from Giggs landing behind the West Ham defence on its left. Robin Van Persie, lurking, raced on and controlled it with a perfect touch, took a couple of steps and fired it into the net.
Damn, damn, damn!
But I have to admit, it was a brilliant goal.
There were still two and a half minutes. I genuinely feared another Utd goal. So, from the body language and movement of the West Ham players, did they. But we survived, and head to Old Trafford for a replay in ten days time.
I’m not so optimistic about that, but you never know. We’ve done it there in the FA Cup before. In 2001, when Paolo di Canio bamboozled United’s French goalkeeper, Fabian Barthez, for a 1-0 victory.
But what I take from today’s performance – even though it is only the FA Cup, is that the team played really well, and above all, Joe Cole was outstanding. His crosses made both our goals and generally he was energetic and influential throughout. He barely misplaced a pass. Quality.
I think he is going to do the business.