Mon, May 24, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Manchester Utd wins FA Cup

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL Cristiano Ronaldo, the 18-year-old Portuguese star signed after Beckham's departure to Real Madrid, powered Manchester United to the FA Cup title

AP , CARDIFF, WALES, GLASGOW, ATHENS AND FRANKFURT, GERMANY

Millwall's David Livermore, left, challenges Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United during their FA Cup final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

Manchester United won its first title since David Beckham left by outplaying division one Millwall 3-0 in Saturday's FA Cup final.

The fact that the man who destroyed Millwall was Beckham's right wing replacement made the victory even better for manager Alex Ferguson.

Cristiano Ronaldo, the 18-year-old Portuguese star signed after Beckham's departure to Real Madrid, headed the Reds in front at the Millennium Stadium. And, although Ruud van Nistelrooy added the two others in the second half, one was a penalty and the other a close range tap-in.

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson gave Van Nistelrooy the man-of-the-match award and that drew laughter from Ferguson, who believed Ronaldo is the best teenager in European soccer.

"There's no question you've seen the potential of that player better than anything in Europe," said the Scot who has been a manager for 30 years, 17 at Manchester United. "What we have to do is realize that potential," Ferguson said.

"He's 19 in February. You just take the components. He's got a terrific physique, balance, pace, two feet, technically terrific. That's the potential that's there to try and develop."

After losing the league title to Arsenal and flopping in the Champions League, the result meant the Reds ended the season with a title to lift some of the gloom hanging over Old Trafford.

"Winning the final and scoring two is fantastic," Van Nistelrooy said. "I missed the last penalty I took but I was convinced I wouldn't miss this one.

"Millwall were well organized and did very well so all credit to them. It's the biggest cup in the world so I am very proud."

The triumph also meant a shutout victory for goalkeeper Tim Howard, the first American to win an FA Cup final. He didn't have a shot to save, fielding a series of crosses from a Millwall side who created very little to worry him.

The American, who started the season helping the Reds win the Community Shield by beating Arsenal on penalties, was taken off seven minutes from the end so that Roy Carroll could make a Cup final appearance.

"For me it is awesome to win a cup and get a medal in my first year. It is a good feeling, better than advertised," Howard said.

His opposite number, however, had defied Manchester United with three standout saves.

Andy Marshall made top quality saves to keep out a Roy Keane long range volley and an angled shot from Ronaldo. In the second half, he blocked a firm shot from Paul Scholes.

After Paul Scholes had shot tamely wide from 20m, Ronaldo went on a typically intricate run through midfield only to be felled by David Livermore.

The incident provoked an angry flareup with Wise pushing Ronaldo in the face and then United midfielder Darren Fletcher ran 15m to shove the veteran Millwall star. Several players began pushing each other before it calmed down and Ronaldo's low free kick flashed past the post.

United maintained the tempo and Keane collected an inside pass from John O'Shea, teed up a volley and drove a dipping 25m shot that Marshall acrobatically tipped over the bar with his right hand.

Millwall had done little to threaten Howard in the Manchester United goal. But the Reds needed a well-timed tackle by Mikael Silvestre on Paul Ifill in the 26th minute to prevent the Millwall midfielder getting in a shot in front of goal.

Manchester United almost took the lead three minutes before half time when Gary Neville's right wing cross was headed on by Van Nistelrooy to Ronaldo, whose angled shot was blocked by Marshall.

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