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Man United v Schalke Preview

Ralf Rangnick is asking his Schalke players to show they have learned the lessons from a one-sided first-leg defeat when they visit Manchester United for the conclusion of their Champions League semi-final. United counterpart, Sir Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, has a selection quandary.

Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager
I hope Manchester United don’t regard it as a formality, I certainly won’t. The work ethic will be very high tomorrow in order for us to qualify.

If you look at the experience of last year where we lost the league [with a vital home defeat by Chelsea] it was after a Wednesday game against Bayern [a 2-1 quarter-final first-leg defeat in Munich]. The team was very tired against Chelsea in the next game so that has to have a bearing on my team selection – [they are] two massive games but each as important as the other. There will be some changes; hopefully I will have a nucleus of a team that is good enough to still win.

There seem to be better concentration levels in European games. It is not the regular football – the Premier League is incessant, tribalism almost. You are playing a London team, a Yorkshire team, Liverpool teams and it creates that incredible competitive edge. You go to Europe and there are different ways of playing, different tactics so it possibly brings different concentration from us.

Ralf Rangnick, Schalke coach
We want to show we can play better, that we learned our lesson from last week and then we’ll see what happens. If Sir Alex Ferguson does spare players it shows he has belief in his squad. And If we have a chance it is up to us to perform in contrast to the first leg. We need to take a different approach, learn from that and apply the lessons tomorrow.

The first ten to 15 minutes, Manchester United will try to score. I think we have to be well organised during this period and then we have to take our chances when we get them, even if there are just two minutes left. You only have to think of Man United in the Champions League final [against Bayern] when they came back to win 2-1.

The first leg we competed for the first 15 minutes then we gave away too many clear chances. We are looking to change that. When we played in Milan against Inter they didn’t give us much hope either. Part of the hope comes from the development the team has shown over recent weeks – I hope they can show what they can do tomorrow.

Ideally we’re looking at playing [Sergio Escudero] at left-back, he does have strong attacking qualities and is a possibility for tomorrow but we will have to see what happens in training.

Team news
United

Wayne Rooney missed training on Tuesday along with Fabio; the England forward has a tight hamstring and will be assessed on Wednesday. Ryan Giggs missed Sunday’s Arsenal FC loss with “a bit of flu” but should be fit, while Dimitar Berbatov and Anders Lindegaard are back in the squad after lay-offs. Darren Fletcher is available after a virus and will be involved, according to Sir Alex.

Schalke
Benedikt Höwedes has missed Schalke’s last three games with a stomach strain and is due to have a late fitness test along with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (knee). “We will not take unnecessary risks,” said Rangnick. “He has to be 100% fit.” Mario Gavranović (ankle), Christoph Moritz (knee) and Christian Pander (toe, cold) are all out.

Prediction
United seem to have more than one eye on this weekend’s title-decider with Chelsea as Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs are both expected to miss the Champions League semi-final against Schalke. Two nil up from the first leg, United seem to be within touching distant of Wembley. An early Schalke goal, will turn Old Trafford into a very nervy stadium.

Schalke went to the San Siro and scored five goals against Inter Milan. You would not expect them to play as poorly as they did in the first leg, and that could coause some trouble for United if they overlook their German opponents.

I expect United to progress, but is will be a lot tighter than people think.

Score: Man United 1 Schalke 1