United, thanks to a dominating display in Gelsenkirchen, have one foot in the Champions League Final at Wembley on Saturday May 28th.
Sir Alex`s starting eleven was pretty much as expected with the only possible exclusion to raise a few eyebrows being that of Nani, with Sir Alex preferring Valencia and Park to provide the width. The defence looked solid, especially with Vidic and Ferdinand at its heart whilst Giggs, in his new central midfield role, partnering Carrick.
Sir Alex, pre-match, would have been hoping that his defence could continue its dominance in Europe and not concede a goal, as has been the case this season.
United – Van der Sar, Fabio, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Hernandez
Subs – Kuszczak, Anderson, Smalling, Nani, Scholes, Rafael, Evans
Before kick off, Sir Alex had this to say about what lay ahead,
‘This team mostly played against Chelsea and they’ve got the experience. It’s a good foundation for a semi-final like this. You get apprehensive when you think about our record against German sides, but this is a different team and our away form is very good. I rely on them and I trust them. Schalke’s home record in Europe is excellent, so you’ve got to take that as a guide. It’s quite a young team and they have an outstanding goalkeeper and a lot of energy. It’ll be tough. Hopefully we can score – that’s the bonus.’
First Half – With the action underway it was our hosts who had the first effort on target, albeit a shot form Baumjohan that flew straight to Van der Sar. United responded with a decent effort from Rooney that took a slight deflection forcing Neuer into a decent looking save.
Neuer was then called into action to deny Park as United tried to capitalize on a fast start. Hernandez was the next to test Neuer but the German keeper was up to it and made his third decent stop in as many minutes. Schalke responded with Farfan curling an effort just wide of the post.
Fabio went on a lung-bursting run, the length of his pitch but his cross was intercepted. Neuer was then forced to deny Hernandez making a fine save with his legs. Hernandez then had a great chance to shoot but elected to pass instead and Schalke cleared the danger courtesy of Matip.
Hernandez then held off the challenge of Matip only to shoot wide. Neuer continued to show his class by keeping out a header from Giggs from a Vidic cross. Metzelder received the first yellow card of the night for a cynical tackle on Rooney. United continued to dominate and that man Neuer had to produce another world class save, with one hand, to deny Hernandez again.
Valencia and Park combine dot set up a chance for Fabio but his effort missed the target. Valencia, down the other end of the pitch, gave Baumjohan a nudge in the back in the area but the referee, despite protestations form Schalke, waved play on. As half time approached Papadapoulos did well to clear a dangerous cross from Giggs from under his own bar.
How United were not ahead at half time? Just say Mauel Neuer, a superb forty-five minute display.
Half Time – Schalke 0 United 0
Second Half – United continued to push forward in at the start of the second half and that man Neuer was at it again denying Evra who had met Giggs`s cross with a header. Valencia then picked out Giggs at the far post but his effort flew wide. Hernandez then netted from a Giggs cross but the offside flag kept the score at 0-0.
Schalke had a rare excursion forward and created a chance when Farfan`s cross was only half cleared but Jarodo saw his effort miss the target. Vidic, lurking at the near post, saw his effort blocked. Fabio received a yellow card and United broke quickly from the resulting Schalke free kick. Evra didn`t select the right ball, to Rooney, though and the move broke down.
Having bossed the game, United suddenly found Schalke coming at them and Ferdinand did well to clear a dangerous looking cross from Raul. Van der Sar then had to produce a save from a long range effort from Edu. But the home crowd was silenced when United, after all that pressure, finally did take the lead.
The goal coming after Rooney supplied a sublime pass for Giggs to finish through the legs of Neuer.
Schalke 0 United 1 (Giggs – 67 minutes)
Not too long, two minute sot be precise, after United doubled their lead and put one foot firmly in the Champions League final when Rooney scored. Hernandez provided the assist and Rooney the finish with the Schalke defence all over the place.
Schalke 0 United 2 (Rooney – 69 minutes)
With the away leg wrapped up, Sir Alex introduced Scholes and Anderson for Park and Hernandez beefing up the midfield to ensure Schalke couldn`t get back into the game. With ten minutes to go United were comfortable. Van der Sar emphasized that facet by producing a good save to deny Escudero from twenty-five yards out.
Evra could have added a third but his shot went just the wrong side of the post after a great ball from Nani had created the chance. But it didn`t matter United are in pole position and the glory is ours.
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