The first reaction upon seeing the Manchester United starting line up was that Sir Alex Ferguson has the biggest kahunas of all European managers or that he was a fool – and we all know that he’s not an idiot. Possibly a hopeless gambler but certainly not foolish. Here he was, 90 minutes away from a third Champions League final in four years, and he makes nine changes from the team that took a 2 goal lead at Schalke last week! And his utter faith in every member of his squad proved to be absolutely correct.
So United awaits Barcelona at Wembley on May 28 where one of them will lift the trophy for the fourth time. There’s no doubt that the Catalans are a great side but as Arsenal showed at The Emirates and were then considered unfortunate not to do so again at Camp Nou, while it’s difficult to outplay Barca, they are far from unbeatable. As a born optimist, and the Final held in London, I will certainly be having a wager on United to bring Big Ears back to Old Trafford.
Champions League Semi Final 2nd Leg
Manchester United 4 v Schalke 1
The Telegraph – By the end of this rout, the home fans were chanting “we’re Man United, we’ll do what we want”, which was pretty much anything against supine Schalke in reaching the Champions League final. The M1 will probably more prove more troublesome for United in getting to Wembley than the guileless Germans did. Barcelona, the team of all the talents, will be far less accommodating than Schalke on May 28.
Pep Guardiola, who travelled to Old Trafford last night to watch a largely second-string United, will send out such stars as Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi. But nobody, certainly not the respectful Guardiola, will dismiss United’s chances. There is a belief to United, a refusal to bow to adversity that gives them a chance. They also have a desire to make amends for their Rome defeat to Barcelona. Full Report
Daily Mirror – Not A gamble, not reckless. Just a show of sheer faith in his squad. And as Sir Alex Ferguson reached his third Champions League Final in four years, and fourth in all, that trust was repaid at Old Trafford. Fergie’s decision to bench nine of his first-choice side ahead of Sunday’s title showdown with Chelsea could have been an albatross round his neck had Schalke pulled off the mother of all comebacks.
But while never touching the heights as they merely confirmed what we saw in the Veltins Arena last week, United did more than enough to ensure they get their shot at Wembley destiny against Barcelona. The United boss left Nemanja Vidic, Javier Hernandez and Ryan Giggs on the bench, with Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Ji-Sung Park in the stands. Yet any doubts were ended as two goals in the space of five minutes from Antonio Valencia and Darron Gibson – the second courtesy of an absolute howler from Schalke keeper Manuel Neuer – sealed the deal. Full Report
Manchester Evening News – Manchester United set up a mouth-watering Champions League final clash with Barcelona after demolishing Schalke at Old Trafford. Reds boss Sir Alex Ferguson rang the changes for the semi-final second leg, but his selection gamble paid off with goals from Antonio Valencia and Darron Gibson putting United into a commanding early position.
Jose Manuel Jurado lashed in a fine effort to give the visitors a glimmer of hope, but two second half goals from Anderson sealed the comprehensive win. United will surely face a tougher game in the final – the Reds’ third in four years and a replay of the 2009 showpiece – on May 28 against Pep Guardiola’s men Full Report
Manchester United – van der Sar, Rafael (Evra 59), Evans, Smalling, O’Shea, Nani, Gibson, Scholes (Fletcher 72), Anderson, Valencia, Berbatov (Owen 77) GOALS – Valencia 26m, Gibson 31m, Anderson 72m, 76m
Schalke – Neuer, Uchida, Howedes (Huntelaar 69), Metzelder, Escudero, Baumjohann (Edu 45), Papadopoulos, Farfan (Matif 75), Jurado, Raúl, Draxler GOAL – Jurado 35m