Butt helps holders uphold tradition

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The Independent Online
Millwall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Manchester United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

(United win 3-2 on aggregate)

WHETHER or not Manchester United win the Premier League, there is every chance of increasing the proportion of home- grown players in the senior side over the next few seasons. The holders deservedly qualified for a final against Leeds United or Norwich after retrieving a 2-1 deficit from the first leg with the sort of style their club has always stood for.

The Cup has had a special place in United hearts since Matt Busby's Babes won the inaugural tournament in 1953 after which younger brethren retained it for the following four seasons.

Alex Ferguson, dismayed when he took over three decades later that Manchester City seemed to be attracting the best young players, made it a priority to revamp the whole scouting system. Victory last year was the club's first since a boy called Best helped win the competition in 1964.

Last night Millwall's close- cropped kids - there had been a communal shearing before the first leg - offered grit and graft against superior technicians but were made to pay for missing two good chances early in the second half. Prompted well from midfield by two boys who have already appeared in the first team, Keith Gillespie and David Beckham, United drew level on aggregate when Nicky Butt drove home a beautifully struck shot from Ben Thornley's square pass. Eight minutes from time Thornley was the provider again and a header from the substitute, Jovan Kirovski, flew in.

Millwall: Knight; Francis, Luckett, Chapman, Thatcher, Middleton, Beard, Gordon (Smith, 75), Morey, Pitcher, Wright. Substitute not used: Irvine.

Manchester United: Whitmarsh; O'Kane, Riley, Casper, Neville, Gillespie, Butt, Beckham, Irving (Kirovski, 75), Scholes, Thornley. Substitute not used: Murdoch.

Referee: D Axcell (Southend).