Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United
Arsenal win 5-4 on penalties
The FA Cup Final
Saturday 21 May 2005
£1,000,000 to the winning club
Jens Lehmann’s shootout heroics handed Arsenal an historic FA Cup Final victory over arch rivals Manchester United.
The German international was in fine form for the Gunners all afternoon, keeping at bay a United side intent on ending the season on a high. And in the pressure of the penalty shootout, the first-ever in FA Cup Final history, he saved neatly from Paul Scholes’ crisp shot - United’s second spot kick.
Manchester United will go away from Cardiff hugely disappointed, not least for ending the year pot-less. On the day Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were much the better team, but were guilty of missing too many chances and paid a heavy price.
This was a win-or-bust encounter between the Premier League’s second and third best teams. This was a game with more than just pride at stake, one neither of these massive rivals – and their armies of fans – could dare think of losing.
United had the edge of head-to-heads during the league season and with Arsenal finishing a place above them in the final standings, the Londoners surely had a point to prove.
The dreary conditions and cloudy sky made for a grey start to the match, but Ronaldo, who seems to love these Cup Finals, was giving Lauren major headaches down the Arsenal right and the crowd a taste of what would come a little later.
His first go at the full-back, with a sackful of step-over, saw the Portuguese tee-up Paul Scholes eight yards out, but his fifth minute header was too high.
Instead of lighting the game’s touch-paper, both sides sat tight, and continued to size each other up. If anyone looked more likely to open the scoring, the Gunners would have perhaps edged it, especially when Roy Carroll was caught in no-man’s land outside the United box, with Jose Antonio Reyes in possession.
But unfortunately for Arsene Wenger’s side, no appropriate option arrived in support quick enough and when the shot finally came in, with United bodies back behind the ball, Vieira’s shot found the second tier of the Millennium’s south stand.
When the sun finally crept into the Millennium Stadium midway through the first half, though, United started to take control of proceedings, and if it wasn’t Ronaldo it was Wayne Rooney, hassling the Arsenal back four.
Even Ashley Cole was given a scary moment by his England team-mate Rooney. His first real chance to get his head down and run, the 19-year-old prodded the ball past Cole before being brought to the floor by the number three’s lunge. Yellow card to Cole.
Manchester United were then given something to cheer, if only briefly, when Rooney’s shot from the edge of the box was blocked by the legs of Jens Lehmann and Rio Ferdinand rolled home the rebound. But the linesman’s flag save Arsenal; Ferdinand adjudged offside from the initial shot.
Rooney’s next act forced another smart save from Lehmann on the half-hour. Once again United looked the hungrier, and after van Nistelrooy’s strength and persistence beat Cole to the bye-line, Rooney met the cut-back before seeing the effort palmed over.
There was still more to come from Rooney as the first half wound down. And what match these days is complete without an audacious volley from the former Everton man? Well The Cup Final had one when, unmarked at a corner, he met Darren Fletcher’s cross first-time to power just off target.
Though it may not have mattered too much at the time, United’s lack of cutting-edge would end up costing them dearly.
After the break, the expected surge from Arsenal never arrived with Sir Alex Ferguson’s outfit the dominant force.
Man of the match Rooney, still at the heart of United’s best moves, was first to everything and terrorised Arsenal with the ball at his feet. His strike on 67 minutes after cutting in from the right almost caught Lehmann out with a near-post drive, but luck was on Arsenal’s side and the ball struck the woodwork.
When, a year earlier, his two goals spurred United on to Final victory, Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy squandered a series a fine opportunities that would have surely settled the game.
Nine times out of ten, van Nistelrooy’s 84th minute point blank header would have nestled into the net, but this time, rather than his customary Cup Final goal, substitute Freddie Ljungberg was on hand to save with his head and line-up another 30 minutes.
Even with Arsenal so quiet in attack, a team of their quality can never be disregarded and when Robin van Persie, a second-half sub, sent a left foot free-kick towards United’s goal, Carroll needed to be at his best to keep it out.
If one minute of the entire match was to sum up this year’s Final, it came just before the extra-time turn around.
Lehmann came out on top with a great save when Scholes turned well ten-yards out and fired goalwards, then seconds later, during the same United attack, van Nistelrooy’s header went hopelessly over from close-range, when you’d have had him as a cert to score.
Even with Reyes receiving a second yellow card in the final moment of the match, there was a real feeling that Arsenal were to escape from Cardiff in smash and grab style and when Lehmann dealt with Scholes’ penalty, Arsenal’s finishing was clinical and The Cup was heading to London.
Arsenal: Lehmann; Cole, Toure, Senderos, Lauren; Vieira, Fabregas (van Persie, 86), Gilberto; Pires (Edu, 105), Reyes; Bergkamp (Ljungberg, 65)
Subs: Almunia, Campbell
Manchester United: Carroll; Silvestre, Ferdinand, Brown, O'Shea (Fortune, 77); Scholes, Keane, Fletcher (Giggs, 90), Ronaldo; Rooney, van Nistelrooy
Subs: Howard, G. Neville, Smith
Penalty Shoot-out: van Nistelrooy (scored), Lauren (scored), Scholes (saved), Ljungberg (scored), Ronaldo (scored), van Persie (scored), Rooney (scored), Cole (scored), Keane (scored), Vieira (scored)
Referee: Rob Styles
Assistant Referees: Jim Devine, Paul Canadine
Fourth Official: Neale Barry