‘A REMARKABLE SCORELINE’
“In the end it was, in my opinion, one of the most comfortable wins this season,” adjudged a delighted Macari. “You expected City to make lots of chances, you expect chance after chance on a regular basis because you're down to 10 men and chasing shadows. Roy Keane in particular got about the pitch and rallied the troops and, in the end, it was quite a remarkable scoreline.”
"I enjoyed every minute of it,” buzzed two-goal hero van Nistelrooy. “It was a great day for all the United fans and everybody at the club. Yellow cards, red cards, goals, saves, a good atmosphere. That is what football is all about,” he added.
"We showed how we react after a defeat and that is what being at Manchester United is all about. We are now looking forward to the next game but it was just great to be part of an atmosphere and a game like that.”
"They scored from half-chances and we missed gilt-edged chances,” bemoaned Keegan, but the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor praised United’s “merciless streak”, as evinced by Scholes, van Nistelrooy and Ronaldo. “Ruud rules the roost” chorused the Daily Mail.
As for Sir Alex, the only regret was the red card awarded to Neville, who had earned a suspension just a week after returning to the side after a month out injured.
“His red mist was quite out of character,” claimed the boss, “and he knows full well himself that it was bad timing, with automatic suspension for his sending-off adding to our defensive worries.
“But at the end of the day, we had scored four goals, three of them when we were down to 10 men, and that sounds pretty good to me.
“I was asked afterwards if we were taking the FA Cup seriously, but we have never viewed this competition with anything but the highest regard and respect.”
As ever, what eventually unfolded would bear out the tireless competitor from Govan's words. United would head all the way to the grand old competition’s final in Cardiff where – after a semi-final victory against Arsenal's 'invincibles' – Sir Alex's men would win the club's 11th FA Cup crown with a 3-0 triumph over Millwall.
That was all to come. But on Saturday 14 February, 2004, the red multitude left Old Trafford dazed and delighted, after the stormiest Valentine’s Day in the city's football history.