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Manchester United 4 Schalke 1 (agg 6-1): Gibson silences critics to reward Ferguson

05 May 2011 00:24:03

Manchester United 4 Schalke 1 (agg 6-1): Gibson silences critics to reward Ferguson

This went so perfectly to plan, Sir Alex Ferguson even took the time to show that he can be nice to referees. There he was, out in the middle of the pitch shortly after the final whistle, congratulating the very officials he might have attempted to put under a bit of pressure had this semi-final been more of  a contest. As it was, he applauded Pedro Proenca and his colleagues before congratulating his United players on a job extremely well done. He should have patted himself on the back, too. He had to take a gamble in the way he prepared for this game with Sunday's match against Chelsea very much in mind, and how handsomely it paid off. Gather round: Anderson is congratulated after scoring his first goal for United He made eight changes to the side that lost at Arsenal last weekend, and nine to the one that so impressedin Gelsenkirchen last week, but still came up with a team that never gave this bizarrely average Schalke side a chance. After a second-leg performance every bit as bad as their first, it has become one of football's great mysteries how they managed to progress this far not to mention how Inter Milan allowed them to score seven goals in the previous round. But take nothing away from United. Ferguson wanted them to secure their passage to yet another Champions League final with the minimum of fuss. Off and running: Antonio Valencia (left) Manuel Neuer to open the scoring for United Ferguson must have been particularly pleased with the contribution of Darron Gibson, who emerged as the unlikeliest of semi-final heroes. Last week the Irishman had been forcedto withdraw from Twitter hours after joining the social network, such was the abuse he received from so-called United fans. After this, those tormentors owe him agrovelling apology. He created the first goal in the 26th minute with aquite exquisite pass before scoring the second five minutes later, humiliating the 'world's best goalkeeper' in the process. Praise: Valencia (centre) celebrates scoring United's first goal against Schalke This probably wasn't the second part of Manuel Neuer's audition for a place at United. It seems he is almost certainly heading to Bayern Munich this summer. But the manner in which he allowed Gibson's shot to take a sharp diversion off his gloves and cross the line via his left-hand post would have  convinced Ferguson he might not be such a loss after all. Neuer also conceded four in Munich at the weekend. A goal from Jose Manuel Jurado still left Schalke three goals adrift and Anderson put the result beyond any doubt when he scored in the 72nd and 76th minutes. Doubling up: Gibson (centre) fires the ball home to put United 2-0 in front While Ferguson should take enormous pride in guiding his side to their third Champions League final in four seasons, it is not an achievement he will reflect on for long Instead, his focus has to shift to the second, rather more challenging, part of this week to Chelsea on Sunday, and the task of protecting the three-point advantage they will take into a title race suddenly reignited by Sunday's defeat at the Emirates. A day at the races had been planned for Thursday. But, no. Ferguson has apparently cancelled that, instead asking his players even those sat among the spectators last night torest up and make sure fatigue is not an issue come the weekend. Chelsea took advantage of such a situation last season, coming here and beating a United side drained by aChampions League meeting with Bayern Munich in the week. There should be no such concerns thistime. Where the Bayern game was physically and mentally exhausting, this was ridiculously easy.  It helped, of course, that Ferguson was still able to call on so much quality despite all the changes. His team boasted the leading scorer in the Barclays Premier League in Dimitar Berbatov as well as players of the calibre of Paul Scholes, Nani, Valencia and Anderson. Too little, too late: Jose Manuel Jurado pulls a goal back for Schalke United dominated from the start. Naniwas quick to pose a threat and Berbatov went close to playing in Valencia for what would have been the easiest of finishes. The Bulgariandid brilliantly to escape the clutches of two Schalke defenders, only to direct his pass into the hands of Neuer. Schalke seemed no more capable of demonstrating how they managed to conquer Inter Milan than they had eight days earlier. They were strangely subdued and looked not the leastbit encouraged by the fact that Ferguson had sent out his second team. Making a scene: Schalke fans set off flares during their side's match against Manchester United Valencia's goal made United's position all the more comfortable, and what a super goal it was. The move was sparked by Schalke's failure to retain possession in midfield and a superb pass from Gibson invited Valencia to score. He took his chance beautifully, driving a right-foot shot under the advancing Neuer. With the arrival of Gibson's goal five minutes later came a sense of frustration among the travelling supporters and there was a brief clash between fans and stewards before the police helped defuse the situation. Bullet: Anderson lashes home United's third goal as Schalke crumble at Old Trafford MATCH FACTSMANCHESTER UNITED (4-3-3): Van der Sar; Rafael (Evra 60min), Smalling, Evans, O'Shea; Gibson, Scholes (Fletcher 73), Anderson; Valencia, Berbatov (Owen 77), Nani. Subs not used: Kuszczak, Giggs, Hernandez, Vidic,Booked: Gibson, Scholes, Anderson. SCHALKE (4-2-3-1): Neuer 5; Uchida 5, Howedes 7 (Huntelaar 70, 6), Metzelder 6, Escudero 6; Papadopoulos 6, Jurado 7; Farfan 7 (Matip 75, 6), Baumjohann 6 (Edu 46, 6), Draxler 5; Raul 6. Subs not used: Schober, Sarpei, Schmitz, Karimi. Booked: Escudero. Man of the match: Anderson. Referee: Pedro Proenca (Portugal) 6. Four minutes later, Jurado seized on United's failure to clear a  teasing cross by squeezing a shot between Edwin van der Sar and his right-hand post. That nevertheless left the aggregate score at 4-1, and from the re-start it very nearly became 5-1 when Valencia was denied by a goal-line clearance. Berbatov then directed a header just over the bar. But Schalke never looked like fighting their way back intothis tie and Anderson put a place in the final firmly beyond their reach when he struck twice in four minutes. While the first was more opportunistic, a close-range effort scored on the turn, the  Brazilian'ssecond was the product of a delightful move. It was a super ball from Valencia and a perfectly weighted delivery from out-wide from Berbatov that allowed  Anderson to score with ease. Watching from the stands, Pep Guardiola must have been impressed. It is a wonderful Barcelona team he commands but this was some performance given the significance of the match and the number of first-team players rested. But like Ferguson, their minds will now only be stopping Chelsea denying them the chance to secure a Double that might yet be considered Ferguson's finest hour. Perhaps that was another reason Ferguson went out on the pitch. To inspire both the players and the supporters. To remind everyone what an important week this is. Close call: Manuel Neuer punches clear under pressure from United's Nani  Barcelona don't frighten us, says Sir Alex following Schalke demolitionVan der Sar savours perfect night as United line up glamour finale for retiring keeperMartin Samuel: Give us an occasion that does justice to the memories and joy of Wembley '68Manchester United 4 Schalke 1 (agg 6-1): How Sir Alex's side rated at Old Trafford Manchester United 4 Schalke 1: Ian Ladyman's match verdictCHAMPIONS LEAGUE LIVE: Manchester United 4 Schalke 1 - all the action from Old Trafford as it happenedAll the latest Manchester United news, features and opinion  Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, Paul Scholes, Nani, Edwin Van Der Sar Places: Barcelona, Munich, Portugal


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