Paolo Di Canio celebrates his 2001 FA Cup fourth round winner against United.
Paolo Di Canio celebrates his 2001 FA Cup fourth round winner against United at Old Trafford.

I must confess that I winced when watching the draw for the third round last month. A home draw is always nice but, when it’s at home to Manchester United you almost instantly resign yourself to yet another season without a decent cup run.

However, upon more thought and on reflection of the current situation for both sides in the Premier League, this could well be a good day for the Hammers.

We have got some good memories against United in cup competitions. That 4-0 thrashing two seasons ago in the League Cup quarter-final and the infamous Di Canio goal at Old Trafford in the FA Cup fourth round all those years ago are the best ones. And we have good reason to believe another cup victory over Sir Alex is just hours away.

Sir Alex has revealed United’s main priority this season is the the league and the Champions League. This year’s FA Cup fifth round tie lands slap bang in the middle of their Champions League ties with Real Madrid, which means it’ll be either one or the other for them. This probably means a slightly weakened side could arrive at Upton Park today, while the likes of Wayne Rooney and Nani are missing through injury.

Big Sam might see this as the perfect opportunity to give some game time to our returning crocks and Alou Diarra, Jack Collison and Ricardo Vaz Te could all start today. Allardyce has already revealed the returning Joe Cole will start for his second Hammers debut and it would be mad to throw Nolan back into a midfield that did so well against Norwich on New Year’s Day, regardless of his captaincy.

It’s a tie that both managers won’t want to lose but will not be too disheartened if they do. The Hammers are enjoying a good return to the top-flight and won’t want to jeopardise continuing that form for a cup run this season, but the new additions in January could give the side strength in depth a cup run needs. United haven’t won an FA Cup for nine years but have the Premier League and Champions League in their sights, so they will be forgiven for losing this stand out tie today.

One thing for sure is that neither side will want a replay so it will no doubt go either way today, with the Hammers eager for an upset in order to give themselves momentum heading in to their away trip to Sunderland next weekend.

The Game in Numbers

11 – Manchester United are the FA Cup’s most successful side having won the competition 11 times.

4 – The Hammers have beaten United four times in the FA Cup and have lost three.

3 – West Ham have failed to progress past the third round in three of the past six seasons.

150 – If United don’t concede it will be their 150th clean sheet in the competition.

6 – Big Sam’s side have lost in each of the last six times they have been drawn a Premier League side in the FA Cup.

150 – Joe Cole made 150 appearances in all competitions during his first spell at Upton Park, scoring 13 goals.

6 – The last time these two sides met in the FA Cup United ran out comfortable 6-0 winners at Old Trafford in January 2003.

Head-to-Head (all competitions)

West Ham United – 43

Draws – 24

Manchester United – 57