|Event||2003–04 FA Cup|
|Date||22 May 2004|
|Venue||Millennium Stadium, Cardiff|
|Man of the Match||Ruud van Nistelrooy (Manchester United)|
|Referee||Jeff Winter (North Yorkshire)|
The 2004 FA Cup Final was the 123rd final the FA Cup and the fourth final to be played at the Millennium Stadium, the Welsh national stadium in Cardiff, due to the ongoing reconstruction of the usual venue, London's Wembley Stadium. The match took place on 22 May 2004 and it was contested by Manchester United, who had finished third in the Premier League that season, and Millwall, who had finished tenth in Division One.
Manchester United secured a record eleventh FA Cup victory with a headed goal from Cristiano Ronaldo and a brace from Ruud van Nistelrooy which included a penalty kick. In contrast, it was Millwall's first appearance in a final of either the FA Cup or the Football League Cup.
At the trophy presentation afterward, the Manchester United players wore shirts labelled "Davis 36" in memory of midfielder Jimmy Davis, who wore United shirt number 36, and who had died in a car crash in August 2003 whilst on loan to Watford..
Manchester United were appearing in their sixteenth FA Cup final and had won it on ten of their previous fifteen appearances. Two of these victories had yielded a League and FA Cup double (in 1994 and 1996) and in 1999 they had won the FA Cup as part of an unprecedented treble of Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup wins.
For Millwall, 2004 was their first appearance in an FA Cup final, however they had reached the semi-finals on three prior occasions, in (1900, 1903 and 1937). Their appearance in the 1937 semi-final was notable as Millwall were the first team in the old Division Three to reach that round. They also became only the second team from outside the top flight of English football to reach the final since 1982, and the first team from outside the Premier League since its foundation in 1992.
Route to the final
Home teams listed first.
Round 3: Aston Villa 1–2 Manchester United
Round 4: Northampton Town 0–3 Manchester United
Round 5: Manchester United 4–2 Manchester City
Round 6: Manchester United 2–1 Fulham
Home teams listed first.
Round 3: Millwall 2–1 Walsall
Round 4: Telford United 0–2 Millwall
Round 5: Millwall 1–0 Burnley
Round 6: Millwall 0–0 Tranmere Rovers
Manchester United started with the eleven that they had relied on for most of the season, with Tim Howard playing in goal; a back four comprising Gary Neville, Wes Brown, Mikaël Silvestre and John O'Shea; Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs giving the width as wide men in a 4–4–1–1 formation, with Roy Keane and Darren Fletcher sitting in central midfield; and Ruud van Nistelrooy up front, supported by Paul Scholes. Roy Carroll became only the second goalkeeper to be brought on as a substitute in an FA Cup final.
The Millwall team had been badly weakened by injuries and suspensions to key players, including Kevin Muscat and Danny Dichio, so had to utilise an unfamiliar 4–5–1 formation which included player-manager Dennis Wise playing in midfield for the last time before retiring. Wise's appearance came sixteen years after his first FA Cup final with Wimbledon in 1988. It also turned out to be the last competitive game in a Millwall shirt for Australian midfielder Tim Cahill, who would move to Everton during the summer. Despite being injured and unable to keep goal for Millwall in the final, Wise insisted that Tony Warner, the club's first-choice goalkeeper, be presented with a runners-up medal because if he had been fit he would have played in the final.
Curtis Weston beat a 125-year record, previously held by James F. M. Prinsep of Clapham Rovers, by coming on as a substitute to replace Wise, thereby becoming the youngest-ever player to appear in an FA Cup final. Weston's age was 17 years 119 days, beating Prinsep's age of 17 years and 245 days by 126 days.
Millwall's game plan was to get men behind the ball, defending deep and attempt to hit Manchester United on the break, but they were unable to attempt this often as United dominated most of the proceedings. United's early chances fell to Paul Scholes, who had some long-range efforts at goal — one fizzed just wide while another was tipped away by The Lions' goalkeeper Andy Marshall. Scholes was presented with an opportunity on the six-yard line when a rabona cross from Cristiano Ronaldo found him unmarked. The midfielder seemed as surprised by the cross as everyone else and completely missed the ball with his attempted hooked shot.
Millwall's only chance of the first half came when Paul Ifill broke down the right-hand side of the pitch and arrowed in towards the penalty area, only to have his shot blocked. They looked to have survived the first half with the scoresheet intact until a decisive moment on 44 minutes. Roy Keane played in Gary Neville as he moved into the penalty area, and the right-back chipped a cross back across the box. Millwall player-manager Dennis Wise waited for the ball to arrive, but in doing so, he allowed Ronaldo to steal in and plant a firm header past Marshall, to give United a 1—0 lead going into the break.
The second half began similarly to the first, with Manchester United passing the ball around freely. They went 2–0 up when Ryan Giggs went on a run into the Millwall box. He was challenged by David Livermore and referee Jeff Winter adjudged the challenge to be a foul; he pointed straight to the penalty spot although subsequent television replays suggested that Livermore won the ball in the challenge. Ruud van Nistelrooy scored the penalty kick with a shot into the top-corner to the goalkeeper's right. United now held a comfortable advantage and Millwall struggled to find a way back into the match. United's defence kept Neil Harris and Tim Cahill at bay, and the Red Devils eventually scored a third when Giggs went on a run down the left and crossed for Van Nistelrooy to tap in from three yards out, and, as television replays showed, in an offside position.
Millwall had a chance near the end when substitute Mark McCammon almost found a way through United's defence, while Scholes had a late effort for the Reds, before Curtis Weston replaced Wise for his record-breaking appearance as the youngest player in an FA Cup final. The match finished 3–0 to Manchester United, their eleventh success in the FA Cup.
|22 May 2004
|Manchester United||3–0||Millwall||Millennium Stadium, Cardiff|
Referee: Jeff Winter (North Yorkshire)
Van Nistelrooy 65' ((pen)), 81'