It was one of the most one-sides Champions League semi-finals in recent memory as Man United took a huge step towards Wembley and their third Champions League final in four seasons with a 2-0 victory at Schalke.
United completed dominated Schalke. They would have been three up half-time if it was not the brilliance of Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. At half-time I was wondering if United were going to rue those missed opportunities, but two goals in two minutes from Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney put United in a very comfortable position ahead of the second-leg at Old Trafford next Wednesday.
What is amazing about United in Europe this season is that they went through the group stages and now the knockout stages without conceding a goal.
In the first half United ripped Schalke to shreds, in one of the club’s best ever European performances. Carrick and Giggs bossed the midfield. Valencia and Park provided energy, width and speed and Hernandez was his usual menace up-front. Behind Hernandez was Rooney, pulling the strings in that deep lying role that he has been playing so well in recently.
Rooney set the tone in the third minute when picking up the ball on the left corner of the box and curling a shot that, via a slight deflection from Atsuto Uchida, was headed for the far corner until Neuer got a fingertip to the ball.
United were looking dangerous every time they went forward. In the 14th minute Javier Hernández was put clear by Park Ji-Sung but failed to beat Neuer, and the Mexican then lashed a shot wide of the far post after getting clear on the right. Unfortunately for United getting past the inspired Neuer was easier said than done. After throwing out a hand to thwart Giggs’s downward header, the Germany goalkeeper stood tall to foil him again after Rooney had sent Giggs running through on goal on the stroke of half-time.
The second half was more of the same. Within moments of the restart Neuer turned over a Michael Carrick header, then Giggs blazed wide from 12 yards out after doing the hard bit by wrongfooting two defenders.
Just as you started to wonder if this was going to be United’s night, they got the goals there play deserved. Rooney ran infield from the left and, holding off Peer Kluge, slipped a sublime pass through to Giggs who put the ball through Neuer’s legs to make it 1-0.
Two minutes later it was two as Rooney collected a threaded pass from Hernández and slipped a first-time finish low to Neuer’s right.
United totally in control. Schalke were really poor tonight and will be better at Old Trafford, but I expect United to get more goals at home.
What did you think of the game tonight?