The road to the semi final has been one of consistency from United, especially away from home, not having conceded even once. United’s record against German opposition in Europe has been abysmal to say the least, not getting past German opposition ever in the knockouts.
- Tantalizing battle: a Schalke side with a 100% winning record at home en route to the last four vs a United team yet to concede a goal in recording four wins and one draw on their travels in the competition.
- 3 titles: Manchester United has had the European Glory only 3 times before – Raul alone has had the same success.
- German KO: United’s record reads 0 wins and 4 defeats.
- 1996/97 semi-finals: Borussia Dortmund (0-2 aggregate)
- 2000/01 quarter-finals: FC Bayern München (1-3 aggregate)
- 2001/02 semi-finals: Bayer 04 Leverkusen (3-3 aggregate, away goals)
- 2009/10 quarter-finals: FC Bayern München (4-4 aggregate, away goals)
- United are competing in their 12th semi-final in Europe’s elite club competition, their record to date reading four wins and seven defeats (W3 L3 under Sir Alex)
Sir Alex Ferguson
Nothing will be decided tomorrow. We know Manchester are much better organised than Inter, so it will not be as easy for us to score. We have to try to be compact as well. A close result will leave everything open for the return leg in Manchester.
Sir Alex Ferguson has won more games and titles at this level, but United will have a very experienced team, much as Inter did. Our team is a bit younger and hopefully hungrier to make up for their lack of experience. Our passion and discipline has helped us against Inter and I hope it will do so again against United.
- Schalke: Benedikt Höwedes is struggling to be fit – stomach strain; Kyriakos Papadopoulos (calf) and Peer Kluge (abdominal muscle strain) will be fit. Mario Gavranović (ankle) has missed recent games; Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (knee), Christoph Moritz (knee) and Christian Pander (toe, cold) – longer-term absentees.
- Manchester United: Berbatov (groin) did not accompany the team; Fletcher and Hargreaves are still out, but O’Shea joins the squad despite getting a knock last weekend.
Schalke kicked off the game but it took only 3 minutes for Rooney to test the German keeper Neuer when a deflected strike headed to the right top corner. That was the beginning of a number of saves the keeper made to give some respectability to the score. The next 10 min saw attempts from Park and Chicharito brilliantly saved by the keeper.
I had a feeling Sir Alex might leave Rooney alone on top, but he instead went for a 4-4-2 with Hernandez holding the attack up front and Rooney lurking behind as a second striker | false nine | playmaker. Raul was also playing a similar position letting Edu lead the line and helping out the midfield.
Carrick set the pattern to how United were going to approach the midfield. He was going to sit back right in front of the two centre halves and protect the line while letting Giggs forge forward in the attack.
Valencia and Park were full of energy running the channels, intercepting play, and soon the pattern of the first half was set. United seemed to grow into the possession and always seemed to be one gear ahead of the Germans.
Spurts of Schalke’s forward runs never found a way into the box, and the multitude of shots on target (from outside the box) were easy pickings for the Dutchman. Fabio seemed the most culpable to conceding a foul and one ‘d imagine Schalke would exploit it; his ability to dribble was on display when twice he made runs into the box with ease and came close with a half volley from a corner flying just over the crossbar.
United midfielders were given the time to get into their stride and they made every move forward count. 2-3 times in the first half, Chicharito was one on one vs Neuer but the ever accurate Mexican was thwarted by the massive frame of the keeper whose judgement was crucial in making the United strikers look like they were having an off day.
There was only one man responsible for the score being 0-0 at HT, and they say he is best in Germany at the moment and for people like me watching a full 90; against a quality attack rests the case. United were denied 6 times while Van der Sar was called to action only 3 times with the former denying good goal scoring opportunities.
Chicharito’s contribution to this United team is massive. His movement off the ball, his guile and trickery leaves the centres halves confused and helps open channels of scoring for Lampardish runs into the box. And that is exactly how United broke the dead lock. It took 67′ and a string of fine saves but eventually Chicharito dragged the centre backs with his movement allowing Rooney to reverse the ball into the path of Ryan Giggs who after a number of attempts in front of goal finally beat the keeper through his legs! It was a goal well deserved by a team which was dominating all departments of the game and the entire stadium knew it was only a matter of time. A min. later Giggs had another missed attempt on goal but on 69′ when Chicharito with his quick feet found his strike partner, Neuer knew the tie was done and dusted.
Paul Scholes, Anderson and Nani came on replacing the power houses Park, Hernandez and Rooney. United then settled into a keep ball mode and Schalke just never did seem like troubling United. The difference in quality on show was apparent, and the Schalke fans were not too surprised with the outcome of the fixture. They knew it would be a tough game, but it was a truly professional performance from the red devils
Sir Alex Ferguson
Ryan Giggs – “We created enough chances to be four or five up at half time,” said Giggs. “Before the game, we’d have taken 2-0 but we’re slightly disappointed it was only two. I thought if we kept creating chances, one would go in and hopefully I would get one on my left foot rather than my right foot!”
Rio Ferdinand – “In some ways, I was a little bit surprised [by how dominant we were] but then I look at the players in our changing room and it doesn’t surprise me because we’ve got quality in there. If we click and play well like we did in the first half, we can open up any team. “
Final Verdict and Milestones
- As a Manchester United fan, this is easily the best United performance this season in all competitions. We were brilliant in all departments – possession, crisp quick passing, superb interceptions, determined and committed – had it not been for Neuer the icing would be complete.
- With 2 away goals, United are favorites to go to Wembley, having never conceded more than a goal difference at home in Europe.
- Ryan Giggs
- Ryan Giggs has now scored in 15 different UCL editions, equalling the record of Schalke’s Raúl.
- The oldest player ever to score in the UEFA Champions League at 37 years old.
- A record 50th clean sheet in Europe for Edwin Van der Sar
- By beating Schalke tonight, United have won their 1st Champions League knockout round match away against a German side.
- Wayne Rooney – 9.0
- Playmaker, striker and holding midfielder. All in one package. He was brilliant last night, creating the first goal and scoring the second. Hard to ignore this contribution, hence my MOTM.
- Michael Carrick – 9.0
- 94/108 = 87% passing – he orchestrated the midfield with ease under no pressure whatsoever from the Schalke players. He covered the most distance too on the pitch – 11.4km, equivalent to Raul.
- Ryan Giggs – 9.0
- Yup, giggsy will keep tearing you apart.. he converted 1 out of 5 chances he had in the box to beat the keeper. His fitness continues to amaze me as he swapped shirts with Raul at the end of the game. Legendary.
A complete team effort – a performance that questions the belief that this would be the poorest side Sir Alex has ever managed to glory.
- Download the full match here – http://motd2u.blogspot.com/2011/04/full-match-ucl-schalke-v-man-utd-26.html
- Highlights available here – http://motd2u.blogspot.com/2011/04/uefa-champions-league-highlights_26.html