GELSENKIRCHEN - Schalke 04 are
in need of a minor miracle if they are to have any hope of
advancing past Manchester United to the Champions League final
after slumping to a 2-0 home defeat without as much as a fight.
It is not so much Tuesday's 2-0 first leg loss that leaves
them facing a mountain to climb in Manchester's "Theatre of Dreams" but the lack of belief they can turn the tie around
against a team that could have easily won by five goals.
The fact that Schalke had not lost any of their last nine
Champions League matches before Tuesday and won all of their
five previous home games in the competition makes their work in
Manchester even more difficult.
"Our starting position now certainly points to Manchester
having the advantage but in football you never know," Schalke
coach Ralf Rangnick said.
The German coach, who took over five weeks ago from Felix
Magath said this short time had not been enough to bind his
players into a unit capable of seriously challenging the
three-time European champions.
"Manchester were on a different level than Inter Milan (in
the quarter-finals). We reached our limits. We will certainly
need a wonder to progress," he said.
Schalke, 10th in the Bundesliga with no real chance of
playing in the Champions League next season, take on Bayern
Munich on the weekend hoping a win could restore some of their
lost confidence after United ripped their defence to shreds for
over an hour in a one-sided game.
"We will not give up in the second leg but the result is
pretty clear," said goalkeeper Manuel Neuer who prevented an
embarrassingly high-score defeat with half a dozen superb saves.
His performance was the solitary Schalke highlight,
prompting United coach Sir Alex Ferguson to label it the best by
any goalkeeper against United in his years in charge.
To have any chance in the return leg Schalke need more than
just an in-form Neuer. They must beat United at home, with
Manchester having yet to lose this season in the entire
competition, let alone at home.
"Why should we capitulate?" Rangnick asked.
"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."
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