Following 2004's victory over Millwall, United has a record eleven FA Cups to its name and has appeared in the final on seventeen occasions. United are also the only club to appear in an FA Cup final in every decade since the war.
The club first competed in the FA Cup in 1890 as Newton Heath, but were beaten 6-1 by the then League Champions Preston North End. In fact the club had to wait until 1902, when it changed its name to Manchester United, to progress beyond the Third round.
The club’s first win in the competition came in 1909 against Bristol City (1-0). The Reds had to wait until 1948 to reach another final when they beat Blackpool 4-2 at Wembley stadium. The club appeared in consecutive finals in 1957 and 1958.
United next won the FA Cup in 1963 when a Denis Law goal helped see off Leicester City 3-1. The late 1970’s saw the club reach three finals in four years, losing to Southampton in 1976, beating Liverpool in 1977 and losing an epic final to Arsenal in 1979. After being 2-0 down, they came back to score two goals in the final five minutes only to see Arsenal snatch the Cup with almost the last kick of the game.
Two more successes followed, against Brighton in 1983 and against Everton in 1985, when United defender Kevin Moran became the first player to be sent off in a Cup final. During the Nineties the club reached no less than five finals, winning four of them. In 1990 United beat Crystal Palace 1-0 after a replay, in 1994 and 1996 the club completed the ‘Double’ after wins against Chelsea and Liverpool respectively and in 1999 United completed the second part of a historic ‘Treble’ with a 2-0 win over Newcastle.
United reached the final again in 2004. After beating arch-rivals Arsenal 1-0 in the semi-final at Villa Park, they had the more straightforward task of seeing off First Division side Millwall at the Millennium Stadium. Goals by Ronaldo and Van Nistelrooy (2) won the match 3-0 for United.
The Reds were back at the Millennium Stadium just 12 months later, in May 2005, seeking their 12th FA Cup win. This time, their arch-rivals Arsenal were waiting to meet them - and to exact their revenge, it seems, for the semi-final results of 1999 and 2004. United dominated the match and created the best chances but ultimately failed to kill-off the more defensively minded Gunners. Consequently the FA Cup Final was decided by a penalty shoot-out for the first time in its history, regrettably in Arsenal's favour.
The FA Cup final returned to Wembley in 2007, with freshly-crowned Premiership champions United and previous incumbents Chelsea locking horns in what seemed set to be a fitting curtain raiser for the revamped stadium. In truth, the final was a massive anti-climax as United's fatigue at the end of a long season, allied to an ultra-conservative approach from Jose Mourinho's side made for a stifling affair, which was eventually settled late in extra-time by a strike from Didier Drogba.