Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick has described his team’s semi-final against Manchester United as the biggest game of his, and many of his players’ careers. By contrast Sir Alex Ferguson pointed to his squad’s experience of this stage as a cause for confidence, along with their freshness, but admitted there was always apprehension with the final just one step away.
Ralf Rangnick, Schalke coach
Nothing will be decided tomorrow. We know Manchester are much better organised than Inter, so it will not be as easy for us to score. We have to try to be compact as well. A close result will leave everything open for the return leg in Manchester.
We know United have lots of attacking players at their disposal, especially on the wings; there will be at least five attacking players in their lineup, six if you count [Patrice] Evra. We have to find a good balance between defence and attack.
Who knows how many of these players will play in a match like this in the coming years? The same goes for me. This is my biggest game so far judging by the attention it is getting in general and from the media. Surely, over the course of these two games, Manchester have more to lose than us. We have to stay focused but also enjoy this.
Sir Alex Ferguson has won more games and titles at this level, but United will have a very experienced team, much as Inter did. Our team is a bit younger and hopefully hungrier to make up for their lack of experience. Our passion and discipline has helped us against Inter and I hope it will do so again against United.
Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager
Wayne Rooney’s form has been fantastic these last two months but the most important thing for us is the freshness has come into the team in the last few weeks with players coming back like [Antonio] Valencia, [Rio] Ferdinand, Anderson and Park Ji-Sung.
In terms of the quality of the team, you saw it on Saturday again that this is a team that will not give in, there is absolutely no chance this team will ever give in and that’s a great quality.
I think the present group have enough experience now in Europe, it is where we should be. The expectation from my point of view has always been high as regards the European scene, because you do get envious of other clubs’ record in Europe and we are trying to come to parity with that – in other words, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Liverpool, and we need to progress quickly to get to that level again.
You always get apprehensive at this stage of the competition. We’ve had this situation over the years. [When] we played Barcelona away from home in the first leg [in 2008] and got the result we wanted, in the second leg the last two minutes were absolute agony. Semi-finals are never easy.
[On seeing Schalke against Inter] The first thing is they never looked like losing the game, and that is quite a credit to them given the experience of Inter. There was never any stage where I thought they were going to lose that match, most of the time they were in complete control and even in the good moments Inter had they dealt with it easily. It was a good impression.
Benedikt Höwedes is struggling to be fit after sitting out much of Monday training with a stomach strain, though Rangnick is hopeful Kyriakos Papadopoulos (calf) and Peer Kluge (abdominal muscle strain) will be fit. Mario Gavranović (ankle) has missed recent games while Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (knee), Christoph Moritz (knee) and Christian Pander (toe, cold) are longer-term absentees.
United have confirmed that striker Dimitar Berbatov will not feature on Tuesday having failed to recover from the groin problem that meant the Bulgarian sat out his side’s last two Premier League games. Midfielders Darren Fletcher and Owen Hargreaves are also missing, along with Bébé and reserve goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard, prompting a call-up for Sam Johnstone, 18, as third-choice keeper. John O’Shea also made the flight to Germany despite carrying a knock.
Even when beating Inter Milan in the quarter-finals, the Schalke defence gave Inter four or five good scoring opportunities in each game. The problem for Inter was that they did not take them. Schalke are a force going forward, especially on the counter-attack and they will score against United. The big question is whether United can take advantage of the chances they will get.
Last year at Bayern Munich, United were one up when Fergie took off a midfielder and brought on Berbatov. Bayern took advanatge of the extra space and scored the two goals that decided the tie. I don’t expect them to make the same mistake this time.
Score: Schalke 1 Man United 1
What do you think the score will be?