Hard work paying off for West Brom
West Bromwich Albion assistant manager Keith Downing says his side's great form has come as no surprise to those at the club.
West Brom head into Saturday's trip to Old Trafford, where they will face table-toppers Manchester United, in the lofty position of sixth in the English Premier League.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side are unbeaten in their last seven league fixtures but the fact West Brom are given an outside chance of pulling off an upset indicates just how far Steve Clarke's side have come this season.
Downing – filling in for a sick Clarke at a media conference on Friday – believes the club's terrific form is a culmination of hard work in recent seasons.
"I think we've surprised a few people. I don't think we've surprised ourselves," Downing said.
"It's been a work in progress the last two or three years. The club has worked exceptionally hard behind the scenes.
"The players have been collected and there has been a real strengthening of the squad. It's been built up over the years.
"I don't think it has surprised us from within."
West Brom are just two points behind the third-placed Chelsea and fans of the club are already dreaming of potentially playing European football next season.
But Downing insists those at the club are still working on achieving their first goal of the season: winning 40 points and avoiding relegation.
"Thirty-three points at the half-way stage is a fantastic return for a club like us," he said.
"We have to reset the goals. We are still looking at 40 points and people will raise eyebrows at that, but that's our prime objective, to stay up for another season.
"Then we can assess things again once we get to 40 points but we are not jumping ahead of ourselves and we've got a lot of people with their feet on the ground."
West Brom won 2-1 at Queens Park Rangers in their last Premier League match but the three points came at a cost.
Influential midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu (hamstring) picked up an injury, as did defenders Jonas Olsson (groin) and Goran Popov (hamstring). All three are in doubt for the Old Trafford fixture.
West Brom last defeated Manchester United in March 1984, with 16 fixtures taking place since, of which the latter have won 14.