United cruised into the Champions League Final with a demolition of Schalke this evening.
Sir Alex certainly shuffled his pack ahead of this fixture with key players such as Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Rooney, Giggs and Hernandez not in the starting eleven. All in all Sir Alex made nine changes to the eleven that started last Sunday with only Van der Sar and Anderson remaining from that eleven. With regards to the changes, Sir Alex had this to say,
‘The two centre-backs (Smalling and Evans) are the ones who lack the experience of big-time situations but if you look at Schalke they also have some young players. It was a difficult one but I think I’m right… I hope I’m right.’
Team – Van der Sar, Rafael, Smalling, Evans, O`Shea (captain), Gibson, Scholes, Anderson, Valencia, Berbatov, Nani
Subs – Kuszczak, Evra, Owen Giggs, Hernandez, Vidic, Fletcher
United got the action underway and forced an early corner which Smalling just failed to reach. Nani, looking lively, won a corner but it came too nothing. Schalke responded with a low Farfan drive that skimmed the wrong side of the post.
Gibson, with less than fifteen minutes played, appeared to pick up an injury and looked to be struggling. Berbatov provided some action skipping past a few challenges before firing in a cross that Neuer claimed. Neuer, under pressure spilled a corner but was adjudged to have been fouled leaving United unable to capitalize on the situation.
A United free kick could have proven promising but after it had been half cleared a poor ball in from Berbatov was easily cleared. United upped the ante and a surging run from Gibson saw United force a corner which Smalling headed over form Nani`s delivery.
But, seconds later United surely put the tie out of United`s reach when Valencia made it 1-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate. Schalke give the ball away carelessly and when Gibson found Valencia he coolly found the net.
United 1 Schalke 0 (Valencia – 26 minutes) (3-0 on aggregate)
United soon doubled their lead, five minutes later, on the night when an error from Neuer saw a shot form Gibson slip through his hands, 2-0 on the night and 4-0 on aggregate, surely game, set and match.
United 2 Schalke 0 (Gibson – 31 minutes) (4-0 on aggregate)
Schalke though were keen to get back into this affair and a further four minutes into the game reduced the arrears when Jurado shot past Van der Sar after Smalling had lost possession and the subsequent ball in had taken a deflection off of Evans.
United 2 Schalke 1 (Jurado – 35 minutes) (4-1 on aggregate)
Valencia almost restored our four goal lead, on aggregate, but his shot was cleared off the line. As half time approached both Scholes and Gibson picked up yellow cards, they were closely followed by Anderson who received a yellow card for a rash challenge.
Half Time – United 2 Schalke 1 (4-1 on aggregate)
The second half started with Scholes, despite his yellow card, still on the pitch; surely Sir Alex wasn`t going to risk him missing a second Champions League Final?
Evans conceded a free kick but Scholes was on hand to block the effort from Farfan, rushing out of the wall. Farfan then saw another effort deflected wide and United survived several Schalke corners before Valencia eased the pressure by smartly taking the ball forward on an enterprising run that was foiled by Escudero.
Neuer then produced a great save to deny Anderson after a decent ball from Berbatov. Escudero became the first Schalke player to be booked after fouling Scholes.
Leading 4-1, on aggregate, United were looking comfortable. Smalling thought he`d increased the lead when he turned in a cross from O`Shea but was deprived by the linesman. But Anderson made it 3-1 on the night shortly after Nani surged down the flank with Anderson netting a loose ball after a decent challenge from Uchida.
United 3 Schalke 1 (Anderson – 72 minutes) (5-1 on aggregate)
Anderson, having an impressive match, then added another tapping in, from close range, a ball in from Berbatov
United 4 Schalke 1 (Anderson – 76 minutes) (6-1 on aggregate)
Schalke were being put to the sword in a one-sided semi-final, but our visitors pressed forward and Van der Sar produced a good save to deny Edu. But it was to be our night and a date with Barcelona, at Wembley , beckons.
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