Liverpool on road to glory
Liverpool's fans cornered a small plot inside Upton Park and announced they were going to win the league - it sounded like a medium term forecast as opposed to an expectation of imminent success.
Manchester United have it in their power to equal Liverpool's 18 titles inside the next fortnight unless the small repetitions of pressure applied by Rafael Benitez's maturing team add up to an unlikely Old Trafford collapse.
It was, however, easy to see why optimism rolled off the visitors' section in the form of song as Liverpool made light of a potentially hazardous fixture and turned it into a routine victory.
The words may read like sacrilege when set against Anfield's old bootroom philosophies, but if Liverpool do finish second, and that is still an if, then they can take huge pride and satisfaction from this season.
Liverpool's pursuit of Manchester United has been transformed from dogged to thrilling from the moment they won 4-1 at Old Trafford on 14 March.
And there was never a time when they looked like driving off down Green Street with anything less than three points once Steven Gerrard gave them a second minute lead.
Benitez was every inch the man who was on to something good as he sat relaxed and smiling at Upton Park after the game, insisting he will be calmness itself spending Sunday with his family and watching United meet Manchester City at Old Trafford.
Liverpool had at least given United food for thought - although even in victory and still harbouring the possibility of a title triumph, Benitez himself was forced to chew on some unpalatable statistics.
He was reminded that Liverpool, with only two league defeats this season, could still finish second despite losing fewer games than Manchester United.
And there was also yet another reminder of that dip in Anfield form that cost them 14 points, something which will be pored over as the killer fact if Liverpool do fail to provoke a late United meltdown.
Another fact, one beyond the control of Liverpool or Benitez, was brought into sharp relief as Gerrard and Fernando Torres made the decisive contributions that established the platform for this win.
This world-class pair were starting only their 12th league game together this season, and I asked Benitez how much of a factor this had been, or could be, when the story of this season is written.
He knew its significance as he said: "We have scored a lot of goals from different players, but if we have Gerrard and Torres on the pitch the opposition is wondering who will score, Gerrard or Torres? It also helps the confidence of our players if they are on the pitch with them."
West Ham certainly knew they were on the pitch at Upton Park. Torres made Gerrard's opener and was fouled by Luis Boa Morte for the penalty which Liverpool's captain knocked in at the second time of asking following Robert Green's save.
Torres had left the pitch by the time Ryan Babel scored the third, but by then Liverpool had given yet another demonstration of the progression that deserves the feelgood factor currently surrounding this side.
Liverpool's two league defeats have come at Spurs and Middlesbrough, the first an outrageous slice of beginner's luck for the newly-appointed Harry Redknapp and the second genuinely the result of a poor performance.
It puts those tame draws at inopportune times into perspective. I watched many of those performances and there was frustration around Anfield at Liverpool's inability to dictate terms to inferior opposition.
No more. Liverpool no longer wait before imposing themselves and it has given a team that was always the model of efficiency an extra dimension.
The win at Manchester United, preceded by a dismantling of Real Madrid, appears to have changed the mindset of Liverpool's team, and dare we even suggest it, the mindset of the notoriously stubborn and single-minded Benitez himself.
Liverpool's unofficial motto, repeated by managers and players down the years, was: "First is first and second is nowhere."
True enough, but sometimes you have to acknowledge progress even when there is no new silverware to place in the trophy room. This must apply to Liverpool this season, even if the smart money remains on them ending it empty-handed.
Benitez has an outstanding goalkeeper in Pepe Reina, a solid defence and a balance in midfield between Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso - absent injured yesterday - that allows Gerrard his freedom to link with Torres in what has proved an irresistible partnership.
He must, however, resist the temptation (if any remains) to replace Alonso with Aston Villa's Gareth Barry in central midfield. If Barry arrives, the left flank berth should be his first port of call.
Liverpool need strengthening on the flanks and a new striker must arrive to cover Torres, who has proved susceptible to a worrying hamstring injury this season. If there is concern inside Anfield that he will take himself off to the Confederations Cup with Spain once his interrupted season is over, then it is perfectly understandable.
Chelsea may have something to say about that - Arsenal are currently a very comfortable fourth in the so-called "Big Four" - but you can see Benitez's reasoning.
And while this was not one of their better displays in recent weeks, the manner in which a developing West Ham were brushed aside with the minimum of fuss was another signpost to a successful future for this Liverpool team.
For West Ham's part, the philosophy of manager Gianfranco Zola is plain to see, and it is one that will meet with the full approval of the purists of Upton Park's academy.
Zola will make West Ham pleasing on the eye but he will also try to add that touch of the Italian defensive steel that he will have been brought up on. They were well beaten here, but it is unfair to make harsh judgements on a team so affected by injuries to key players.
Just like Liverpool, West Ham United are on the right track although their eventual destinations may not neccesarily be the same.
For Liverpool, the title remains a hope - but even if they have to content themselves with second place and a share of that record number of title wins with United, there is genuine reason for optimism that they can make a serious bid at setting that record straight next time out.