United v Schalke Preview
After getting a much needed result over in Gelsenkirchen, Schalke visit Old Trafford this weekend with a mountain to climb if they are going to upset the odds and stop United from reaching the 2011 European Cup Final, at Wembley, on May 28th.
Over in Germany, United produced the kind of performance that appeared to show we were a different class to our opponents.
In fact, only the superb goalkeeping skills of Manuel Neuer kept Schalke in with the slightest of chances of progressing to the final. It was a display that had Sir Alex Ferguson personally shaking his hand and wondering if Neuer would be a better option than David De Gea when it comes to recruiting a replacement for Edwin van der Sar.
But perhaps the biggest danger on Wednesday evening is the fact that United could quite easily believe that the hard work is done and that a place at Wembley is a formality. That would be a policy fraught with danger even more so when you consider that United have fallen at this stage, to German opposition, before.
Schalke, despite being up against it, are no mugs, in their quarter-final tie they travelled to Inter Milan and virtually destroyed the Italian sides` hopes of back-to-back Champions League wins with an emphatic 5-2 win that left the Italian side with an impossible task in the second leg.
But saying that the display given by the German side, in their own backyard; offered little in the way of conclusive evidence that they can produce something of that nature, in our neck of the woods. With our home form being exceptional this season, it`s hard to see United being beaten heavily enough, by a side that rarely threatened us in the first leg, and subsequently be eliminated from the competition.
With regard so the team selection Sir Alex Ferguson has already intimated there will be starts for Paul Scholes, Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov, or as Sir Alex puts it - three fresh players to freshen the side up. The remainder of the side will have a solid look to it, we`d be surprised if the defence wasn`t remarkably similar to that which started at the Emirates Stadium, with the possible exception of Chris Smalling coming in to deputise for either Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand. Although, the word from Old Trafford is that Fabio may not play after picking up an injury at the Emirates, if so expect Rafael to step in, or John O`Shea
Up front, the reputed inclusion of Owen and Berbatov would indicate that Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez will be rested, which just leaves three to partner Scholes in midfield. Which three being probably the hardest question to answer! We`ll leave you to debate that.
With regard so this possible team selection, Sir Alex had this to say,
"Wednesday is a European semi-final second leg and we will regroup and freshen it up. I will make some changes without question. I will bring Paul Scoles back in, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen."
"We`ll need to do that but I will probably keep my experienced players at the back."
Here at Vital Manchester United, we`re optimistic the hard work was done over in Gelsenkirchen and that United will have enough about them to ease past Schalke quite comfortably, Wembley here we come, just a matter of who we meet there now.
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