It’s a well known fact that a two goal lead can be a dangerous one in football even though Manchester United obtained just that away from home and German Kicker magazine knows it. It notes that “Although Schalke were so hopelessly inferior in the first leg, they are at least verbally demonstrating optimism” when quoting the comment made by coach Ralf Rangnick who said “All we need is another performance like the first leg against Inter.” Kicker then asks “Is there a better time to imagine the impossible ahead of a match at the Theatre of Dreams?”
Sir Alex Ferguson is also conscious that nothing can be taken for granted in a Champions League semi final admitting that “It is always dangerous in football to assume you have cracked it, that you have found a silver bullet or discovered some secret formula for success.”
“We live in exciting times at Old Trafford” he continued “and while I want both players and supporters to enjoy every minute of it, we must take nothing for granted. It is very easy to get complacent in modern life. There are many examples of it. But Manchester United don’t regard it as a formality on Wednesday and it certainly will not be.”
Schalke may be boosted by the return of defender Benedikt Howedes who is on the plane to Manchester with the squad despite an ongoing stomach problem. A fitness test at Old Trafford will determine his availability. Surprisingly, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has also made the trip and there are hopes that he will be fit enough for a substitute appearance. The Dutch striker has joined Howedes for extra training sessions in recent days and could return after two months on the sidelines with a knee injury.
Victory over Schalke would not only bring United a place in the Champions League Final for the third time in four years, it would also give the them a timely boost after the league defeat at Arsenal. “It has always been the case at this club that if we lose a game then we have to recover quickly” Sir Alex explained.
“We always have work to do in the next match. That is the great beauty of football at least. You always have the next game in which to do something and we’ve only had to wait three days. That is an important issue for us because it is a part of being a good team, how you can recover”
Ferguson will have emphasised the importance of putting all thoughts of Sundays virtual title showdown with Chelsea on the back burner until at least a place in the Wembley Final is beyond doubt. Anything less can leave an ever slight opening for Schalke to cause the mother of all devastating upsets.
Is a prediction of another 2-0 defeat of Schalke too optimistic?