Goalscorer: Kenny Miller 66
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Michael Oakes, Paul Butler, Jody Craddock, Denis Irwin, Richard Naylor, Alex Rae, Paul Ince, Shaun Newton, Mark Kennedy, Steffen Iversen (Ioan Ganea 80), Kenny Miller
Manchester United: Tim Howard, Mikael Silvestre, John O’Shea, Rio Ferdinand (Wes Brown 50), Phil Neville (Diego Forlan 68), Quinton Fortune, Roy Keane, Darren Fletcher (David Bellion 65), Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy
Referee: Andy D’Urso, Attendance: 29,396
In January 2004, Manchester United travelled to bottom-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers with two targets. Score plenty of goals and increase their points lead over unbeaten Arsenal. They left Molineux with no goals, no points and lost total momentum in their bid for a ninth Premier League title.
United had drawn 0-0 a week earlier against Newcastle United which had seen Arsenal cut their advantage at the top of the table to just two points. By contrast, Wolves had won just four games all season and looked destined for an instant return to the First Division. However, they ripped up the Premier League formbook with this performance.
The visitors’ made the trip to the Black Country without Ryan Giggs who was missing with a back injury. It would also be Rio Ferdinand’s swansong for the season. He was due to start his eight-month ban after this match for missing a drugs test back in mid-September. The England defender wouldn’t finish the game either. He sustained an early injury after an accidental collision with Kenny Miller and limped off five minutes into the second half.
Predictably, it was Sir Alex Ferguson’s side that produced the best of the opportunities in a scoreless first half. Ruud van Nistelrooy was the major threat but for once, the Dutchman was wasteful infront of goal. He sent a spectacular overhead kick narrowly over the crossbar midway through the first half and then, four minutes before the interval, incredibly heading over the bar when virtually on the goal-line to nod home.
Dave Jones’ side has defended resolutely and came out of their shell in the second half. In the 48th minute, ex-Manchester United star Paul Ince drove a shot from 25 yards that struck the post. 28 minutes later, they produced the unexpected and took the lead. Miller had been a threat all day and when the league leaders’ lost possession carelessly from their own throw-in, the Scot picked up the loose ball. He left Wes Brown trailing in his wake and as he bore down on-goal, kept his composure to slide a cool finish past American shot-stopper Tim Howard.
Ferguson’s side were shell-shocked. They dominated possession but even after falling behind, didn’t carve out enough moments to get back into the match. The closest they came was through substitute David Bellion. He found some space inside the penalty area with 16 minutes left to play but was kept out by Wolves goalkeeper Michael Oakes.
There were scenes of mass celebration inside the ground at full-time. Wolverhampton Wanderers would ultimately be relegated at the end of the season but it was one of those “I was there” moments for the lucky home supporters at Molineux. This was the day where the champions were left stunned.