Can the Hammers put together a decent cup run to build confidence in the league?

Our FA Cup victory over Derby sealed a date with the Red Devils but is this where our Cup adventure ends?

Jarrod Bowen (WHU) at the West Ham United v Leicester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on November 12, 2022.

‘West Ham are still in the FA Cup’ is the phrase I am gladly opening this piece with this month. After progressing to the third round by beating Brentford in early January, we’ve gone on to gain a convincing win over Derby County and now have a trip to Old Trafford to look forward to.

None of this ‘we can concentrate on the league’ nonsense – yet. Benrahma netted a cracker from outside the box against the Bees, which did his confidence no harm despite his muted celebrations against his former club.

That one goal was enough to send us through to the fourth round and finally get a win over Brentford, something we’d waited a while for. Up next, Derby County in the fourth round. Let’s face it, as fans we look at this sort of fixture as a potential pitfall.

We have our excuses ready in advance and convince ourselves that a cup exit might be a good thing anyway. No need in this case, We dispatched the Rams with a 2-0 victory at Pride Park in what was a comfortable and professional performance.

Considering our league woes, it was nice to see that the lads were up for it. I don’t mean that the game was end-to-end and thrilling, but there seemed to be a desire to stay in the competition from both the players and manager.

Antonio, despite distractions off the pitch, wanted to win that game. He looked alert, made himself difficult for Derby to deal with and scored the goal that settled the tie. He also played a big part in the first goal in which Antonio, Soucek and Bowen linked up really nicely – a sign that the ‘Boys of 22′ have still got it.

Bowen, on somewhat of a scoring streak now, admitted after the match that goals bring confidence, perhaps something lacking since his dabble with England. It would be easy to say ‘it was only League One’s Derby’ but we know we’ve slipped on similar banana skins before, and although the Rams didn’t offer an awful lot, they still had a couple of chances.

Ben Johnson could be considered lucky at the lack of VAR on the night too, as his over enthusiastic shove in the box would have surely been reviewed and a penalty awarded. One tick in the luck tally for us? But overall, this tie had a sense of everyone being up for a cup run this year, and we fortunately didn’t pick up any further injury woes.

David Moyes celebrated the goals and the win like it mattered. And his heartfelt thanks and celebrations with the fans afterwards was great to see. It wasn’t over the top in its jubilation, but was a recognition of progressing in the FA Cup and gratitude to the travelling fans for singing his name with gusto.

On that note, a word for the fans; 4,500 West Ham fans sang their lungs out on a Monday night in the East Midlands was enjoyable to watch, especially in a time of home fans booing and huffing through league fixtures. It was a pre-match fifth round draw on The One Show (I’m including that detail so that we can read this back in years to come and say ‘oh, remember that?’). So we knew that a tie at Old Trafford awaited at the end of the month.

Not too long ago, we would’ve taken this and looked forward to another potential famous win at the Theatre of Dreams. But we’re catching Erik ten Hag’s team in good form. Who knows, we could also put a good run together, pick up some of that all-important confidence, and take it to Manchester.

For some reason, when I think of our cup history, I dream that we’ve been successful against the reds, but actually the results haven’t gone our way so often. Maybe I just have Di Canio versus Barthez etched in my vision.

Since that famous 1-0 win in 2001, we’ve played them six times in the FA Cup (including two replays) and progressed to the next round zero times. For the neutral this tie should be pretty tantalising – two managers going head-to-head who both want to prove something and fill a slot in their respective trophy cabinets. It’s got potential to be a very good game.

Can West Ham progress to the quarter-finals? Yes, they can, but it’s not going to be easy. I think the upcoming Premier League results and performances will go a long way to telling if we can gain belief and momentum to overcome a strong Manchester United team, with a renewed winning mentality.

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