Manuel Neuer preformed like the best goalkeeper in the world, a legendary first half display. His weak defense and passive looking team made it easy for Manchester United to make him look great. But then came Ryan Giggs, the never ending Ryan Giggs, again. Wayne Rooney was next, two minutes later to finish the work. Unless Schalke have more miracles hidden somewhere (I’m guessing they spent it all on Inter Milan), United fans can start purchasing tickets for the Final at Wembley.
Manchester United have been far from impressive in the Premier League this season, mostly away from home (5 Wins, 9 Draws, 3 Losses). That’s because in England, every match, especially away matches, is a battle. The aggression, ferociousness (at times) and dedication of sides who face the red devils is incredible. Schalke didn’t show an inch of any of those. United’s defense needs to be pressured if Van der Sar (retirement year?) is to be tested. Vidic and Rio Ferdinand had one of their easiest nights in years.
The Schalke defense and midfield weren’t at their full capacity but still, allowing Manchester United players, mostly Rooney, Park and Valencia to easily control every long ball sent their way in order to build another assault at the magnificent Manuel Neuer.
Neuer stopped Hernandez, Giggs and Rooney time and time again during the first half. Manchester United had 11 attempts at goal, 7 saved by the German national team’s keeper. The second half began with Schalke showing a couple of signs indicating they might actually put up a fight but those faded quickly. First it was Giggs, thwarted by Neuer more than once during the first half, finishing a fantastic Rooney pass. Wayne Rooney struck two minutes later off of Chicharito’s pass.
From then on the match was pretty much in garbage time. Raul never really got a chance. He can’t really stand out without any help from the wings or behind while Ferdinand and Vidic are easily dealing with that lack of support. The X factors for Schalke, Farfan and Jurado didn’t show up. Michael Carrick annihilated Jurado who didn’t have the innovation and wisdom to attempt and find open spaces on the wings. The United midfield pretty much made it impossible for him to find those spaces.
Generally, it was a tremendous display of United as to why they’re so good. The fundamentals, the experience, Alex Ferguson. Even with the relative newbies, it looks like they’re born into his system. Off the ball movement, the ability to close down the attacking midfielders, the fantastic counter attacking speed. I’m pretty sure Real Madrid or Barcelona will be much more of a problem.
As for Schalke – Manuel Neuer and the wonderful fans were the only bright spot of the evening for the team that shocked everyone by making it this far as they go through a very disappointing season in the Bundesliga. This was probably one of Neuer’s final matches in front of his home fans. Next stop, Bayern Munich, or maybe a very impressed Manchester United?