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Man Utd march on to Champions League final

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Manchester: Manchester United set up a Champions League final at Wembley with Barcelona as they sauntered to a 4-1 victory against Schalke at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

Sir Alex Ferguson's men were never troubled by Schalke, yet a sedate first half was turned on it's head, lurching to life after Antonio Valencia and Darren Gibson goals were answered by Jose Manuel Jurado’s fine strike.

The hosts completely dominated the second half, with Anderson bagging a close-range double as Schalke were completed outclassed by an accomplished Manchester United performance.

Man Utd march on to Champions League final

The 6-1 aggregate scoreline was more than a fair reflection on the overall performance of the German side over the two legs, with Manchester United reaching their third final in four years after achieving the biggest ever Champions League semi-final win.

Perhaps baring in mind Schalke's non-existent attacking verve at the Gelsenkirchen, or taking into account the massive Premier League clash with Chelsea on Sunday or maybe even as a statement of confidence in his squad's capabilities - Sir Alex Ferguson wrung the changes from the weekend defeat against Arsenal - with only Edwin Van der Sar and Anderson retaining their place in the starting line-up.

And the unfamiliarity of the home side's starting 11 came to the fore in the game's sloppy opening stages, as both sides felt each other out with little regard for considered measure. Other than a couple of isolated incidents when Nani and Rafael bamboozled the opposition, sloppy touches, misplaced passes and late snaps punctuated the game.

Just when it seemed United might miss the spark of Wayne Rooney and Chicharito up top, their play suddenly became expansive and Berbatov twice found himself deep inside the Schalke box – once after employing some excellent turns and then after an intelligent Gibson pass - yet disappointingly stabbed low crosses into the shins of the first man both times of asking.

Smelling blood, the hosts moved through the gears and when Anderson picked up a loose ball in the middle of the park and released to Gibson, the Irishman's delightfully threaded pass set Valencia charging through, setting him up for a comfortable finish, which he drilled underneath Manuel Neuer.

The last time United had a three goal lead against German opposition in a two-leg Champions League tie things didn't pan out quite so well, yet just moments later there was a tangible sense of the job being done at Old Trafford, when their lead on the night was doubled. Neuer, last week's outstanding performer, after some direct work from the hosts down the right, allowed a Gibson snapshot from just inside the box to cannon off his gloves and in off the post.

Remarkably, Schalke's answer was as swift as it was clinical. Chris Smalling, attempting a Rio Ferdinandesque stroll out of defence, was caught out and when the ball was worked down the right hand flank and crossed in, it fell rather fortuitously to Jurado, who lashed with venom into the top corner.

Seeking to re-establish the two goal lead right away, Manchester United burst back into life, with Nani rounding the keeper before seeing his effort cleared off the line by Benedikt Howedes, as the game picked up a seesawing motion that seemed unrecognisable from the earlier exchanges.

As the first half came to a close, United's three men in the middle of the park, Paul Scholes, Anderson and Gibson all picked up rather needless yellow cards, taking the sting out of the game as both teams trooped in.

Schalke started the second half with attacking intent, though their possession in the final third was fruitless at best, with Raul culpable after trying to tee up Jefferson Farfan, with a shot by far the better option.

Neuer then somewhat redeemed himself from his first half howler, when he produced an excellent sprawling save across to his left, after Anderson curled in a dangerous, outswinging effort with his weaker foot – initiated by some enterprising play by Berbatov and Nani down the left flank.

With Manchester United firmly in the driving seat and enjoying forward-moving spells of possession that rarely breached the visitors' defence, Schalke searched but failed to find an adequate response – as a large chunk of the game passed by without incident.

The introduction of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar after two months on the sidelines proved the catalyst to some long-awaited action, as Smalling netted, very unconvincingly, for the hosts – though was correctly adjudged to have been offside to be denied his first goal for the club.

With the bit between their teeth, Manchester United strode forward and this time a drilled ball in from the right was converted, by Anderson, after the midfielder seemed to have the ball on a plate, though was blocked excellently by Atsuto Uchida, before regaining his feet and firing low past Neuer.

It turned into a romp straight after, as the hosts nonchalantly strolled through the flimsy Schalke defense, with Berbatov released down the right and rolling the ball across the box into the path of Anderson, who doubled his career total for the club in the space of four minutes by slotting into the vacant net.

A consolation goal was almost on the cards after Van der Sar stopped in fine fashion from close range from Edu, before Huntelaar smashed in the rebound from an offside position.

Manchester United saw out the rest of the game in consummate comfort to set up a Champions League final for the purists, a replay of the 2009 clash against Barcelona in Rome.

Read more at:http://ibnlive.in.com/news/man-utd-march-on-to-champions-league-final/151278-5-21.html

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