Well, who'd have thought that? Many people, including ourselves, didn't give Hammers a prayer for tonight's game against Manchester United at a packed Old Trafford. Hammers 'glorified' B team, as Mark Noble described it in his post match presser, was totally outclassed by that of Utd's on paper, but as the old saying goes "football is not played on paper, it is played on the field" and so it proved.
The team David Moyes selected was a good blend of youth and experience with two debutantes, Alex Kral and Alphonse Areola, both were superb on the night and appear to be extremely shrewd loan signings with the right to buy enshrined in their deals.
Hammers took it to the home side from the off and were rewarded when Ryan Fredericks outpaced the home side's lethargic back line before cutting back an excellent cross that Manu Lanzini calmly place into the net, unfortunately Fredericks fell down the 'moat' surrounding the pitch and was unable to carry on past the 1/4 hour mark.
The entire team hustled and bustled to put Utd of their stride, with Bowen doing his best Antonio impersonation by making a real nuisance of himself all over the pitch. The defence was resolute and it had to be as the home team, roared on by 72,000 people, through everything they could at Areola's goal. Apart from one dodgy missed attempt at a high ball into the area which he quickly atoned for by superbly tipping the resulting shot over the bar, that set the trend for what was to be a really good debut.
Likewise Kral took to the big stage showing no nerves and NO mercy in midfield, any fears that he might find it hard to adjust to the English game were quickly dispelled as he made much of the midfield his own, determined in the tackle and not bad on the ball either.
Johnson put in a 1st team level performance, which is where he is destined to be, but special mention must go to Les Dawson and the Monster that is Diop, between them they snuffed out a phenomenal array of talent with a thoroughly professional display.
As the game got stretched towards the end and the home team had sent in their cavalry Hammers carved out two guilt edged chances to put the game to bed, Yarmolenko somehow hit the post from three yards out, and then Mark Noble raced forward "the furthest up the pitch I had been for years" he said, unfortunately his tame attempt did not provide total redemption for last Sunday, but winning at Old Trafford came close.
However, this is of course WEst Ham we are talking about, so just as those extra pints ordered were being delivered the draw was held in some weird place in Barnet with Old H sat the helm. Ball number 14 west ham, home....drum roll..against Manchester City....just like my dreams heh?
They're only four times in a row serial winners, but at least some form of satisfaction will have been gained by the 1st victory at Old Trafford for 14 long years, even if it was in the essentiality useless Moose Cup. One real bonus is that it showed anyone who doubted the resolve of David Moyes's team to bounce back from a major setback, this is a new West Ham we are seeing, crafted with care by David Moyes and his back room staff.
It's a pity that the reward for beating Manchester United had to be a game against Manchester City of all clubs, but it is what it is. Try spreading gloom and doom with all the happy hammers travelling supporters on their way back home, you will receive short shrift! Enjoy tonight for what it was, an exceptional performance that won't be forgotten, irrespective of the team's future progress in the competition, savor the flavour while it lasts. - Ed