Couple days ago, co-writer Lork referred to Schalke as “slackers” for an attempted joke, but after watching Manchester United absolutely destroy the German side, his description was right on the money. It was a cruise for United as they dominated every statistic you can imagine. The first-half was virtually Manchester United vs. Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. United was able to move the ball and attack at will. They had numerous shots, but it was Neuer who kept Schalke’s slim European hopes alive. He made world class saves, denying the Red Devils’ attack. It could have easily been three or four nil at the half. Schalke’s midfielders were nonexistent as they gave United’s midfielders way to much space to work with. This continued into second-half as well. It was only a matter of time until Manchester found the break through. United finally turned the tables in the 67th min. when Wayne Rooney feinted a shot to create space in between the center backs as he slipped a clever through-pass to Ryan Giggs. Giggs then easily slid the ball past the dominant Neuer for the opener. A mere two minutes later, with Schalke’s backline still in disarray, Javier Hernandez was able to pick out an unmarked Rooney for an amazing finish. This left keeper Neuer screaming at his defense. It was a heartbreaker for Schalke fans as United stole two precious away goals in a span of two minutes. Schalke came nowhere near threatening their opposition’s goal for the rest of the match, eventually falling to the final whistle.
I honestly have no idea what the hell Schalke was doing. Their tactics were absolutely dreadful, as am I dumbfounded to how they previously beat Inter Milan. The German side’s midfield was total trash. They gave Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs pastures of grass to work with. You cannot give players of such class enough time to get their heads up and survey the field, especially Ryan Giggs. Giggs has had a touch in nearly every United goal in Champions League play and can arguably be their player of the season. Why in the hell is he wide open? I just do not understand their mentality. When you are at home, you need to be the aggressors. Instead, they let United dictate the game from start to finish. Schalke was just as poor on offense as they were on defense. Since United was attacking like crazy, they had to live off of the counter-attack. The problem? Schalke was no speed at all! How are you supposed to execute a counter when you have players like Rio Ferdinad and Nemanja Vidic outrunning your strikers? After watching the first leg, I give Schalke no chance to pull off a miracle at Old Trafford. At times it looked as if Schalke didn’t even belong on the same pitch as the Red Devils. It was a clear one-sided affair in the first-leg. These two will lock-up again in eight days, barring a United meltdown, the Reds should make the Champions League finals once again.
Schalke 0-2 Manchester United
Player of the Match:
Manuel Neuer– Regardless of United’s onslaught of attacks, he showed us why he is one of the top pursued goalkeepers in the world. Manchester only had 19 total shots (10 on target). Only allowing two in such a one-sided affair is pretty remarkable, especially when you aren’t getting any support from your defense and midfield.
Photo courtesy of ESPNsoccernet.