GELSENKIRCHEN - Manchester
United overwhelmed Schalke 04 as they strolled to a 2-0 victory
in their Champions League semi-final first leg on Tuesday in a
one-sided match that left the home fans stunned.
Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney scored in the space of two
second-half minutes and United could have had more but for the
superb goalkeeping of Manuel Neuer with the final score hardly
reflecting the huge difference in quality between the sides.
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Sir Alex Ferguson's team were superior in all aspects of the
game and United - three-time winners of Europe's top prize -
go into the return leg having gained a huge advantage after
dominating the dazed Germans for about an hour.
"It was a top performance and credit to the players for
their belief in themselves and the trust in each other,"
Ferguson told reporters. "It ranks as one of our best
(performances in Europe)."
WIN: Two tickets to Man United v Schalke
United shot out of the blocks and could have had three or
four goals by the end of the first half were it not for the
heroics of Neuer who single-handedly kept Schalke in the game.
Whether attacking from the right, left or centre, the home
side's defence looked sluggish with United's players having time
and space to create numerous chances.
Mexican Javier Hernandez, nicknamed Chicharito, and South
Korean Park Ji-Sung saw their early efforts blocked by Neuer but
it was just the start of a prolonged United assault that ended
only after the visitors took their foot off the gas.
Neuer twice denied Giggs late in the first half but the
Welshman, picked out in the box when Rooney flicked a pass
through Joel Matip's legs, was on target in the 67th minute.
The England striker, who was sent off in the same stadium
against Portugal in the 2006 World Cup finals, then turned
scorer by firing home from inside the area after Hernandez set
him up with a well-timed pass.
"I think there was frustration towards the end of the first
half with that final save from Ryan's (header). We had to
correct that at half-time," said Ferguson.
"But what broke the camel's back was Chicharito's goal (that
was disallowed early in the second half) because we saw that we
could beat the guy (Neuer)."
Ferguson also heaped praise on Giggs, who at 37 may not play
as often as he did but is still lethal when he does.
"This is strange because his peak seems to have lasted so
long now," said Ferguson. "I see no evidence of this waning."
"He won't be playing on Sunday (against Arsenal), he'll be
playing next Wednesday (in the Schalke return) and when he gets
that freshness he shows no signs of weakness. He is an amazing
Ferguson even hinted that he might be able to rest some
players for the second leg at Old Trafford, saying: "Depending
on the result on Sunday I could make two or three changes".
The scoreline leaves Schalke, playing in their first
Champions League semi-final, facing a mighty task going into the
return next week, with the winners going through to play
Barcelona or Real Madrid in the final at Wembley on May 28.
"We had imagined this game differently. We lacked the final
pass today which we had against Inter Milan (in the
quarter-finals)," said Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick.
"We had to thank Manuel Neuer that we were not two or three
goals down in the first half.
"But why should we capitulate? We need to make things
differently and in football many things have happened.
"We have shown we can score away from home and we will try
to get our chances in Manchester," added Rangnick who took over
just a month ago from Felix Magath.
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