Old Trafford, Manchester
May 3, 2011; 18:45 GMT [+5:30 IST]

Ralf Rangnick’s Schalke 04 travel to Old Trafford in a bid to enter their first ever Champions league final. Man United, on the other hand, would be looking to book a short trip to London as Engalnd’s magnificent Wembley Stadium gets ready to host the European cup final. However, for the team from Germany the task at hand has gotten harder after the debacle in the first leg at the Veltins Arena.

The New Wembley.

Ferguson’s United side definitely hold all the cards in this match up – a two away goals lead, the backing of  seventy thousand vociferous home fans and an intimidating European record. Surely this tie should go according to the script. Nevertheless the impending all important duel with Chelsea this coming weekend could make matters interesting as Ferguson would look to tamper with his side and prioritize the league game. Man United would do well not to succumb to the comfort of the two goal lead and try to win the game from the start.

On the other hand, The Royal Blues have made history by reaching the semis and their journey hasn’t been anything short of a fairytale. However going to the Theatre of Dreams with a two goal deficit seems a nightmarish assignment. To be fair to Rangnick’s men, not many teams come to the home of Manchester United and win. FC Schalke have reached the point of no return, they have to attack and give it their one mighty go, drawing inspiration from their epic triumph at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza – the home of the reigning European champions Internazionale. This might yet be the final time we see Europe’s leading goal scorer Raul on such a grand stage – may be the Spaniard has a trick or two up his sleeve.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Manchester United

Sir Alex is eyeing the double, ergo the team he puts out against the Germans will definitely have  more than a few changes, expect big guns like Rooney (slight hamstring), Ferdinand, Hernandez and an overworked Carrick all to be rested. However, be rest assured the team picked by the wily Scot will have what it takes to get the job done. Michael Owen and league top scorer Dimitar Berbatov are nailed on certainties to start along with Paul Scholes. The fit-again Darren Fletcher is also expected to play a part, although he might have to start on the bench. Chris Smalling would fill the void vacated by Rio and is expected to do more than a reasonable job.

On the surface of it, Red Devils look to be coasting along in this tie; however the next goal in this fixture could prove to be the most vital yet. If United concede early, nerves would start jangling and that could be a recipe for disaster. FC Schalke are expected to put up more of a fight than they did at the Veltins Arena. Manuel Neuer’s performance ensured the Germans are still in the tie, although their chances seem to be hanging on by a thread.

Old Trafford faithful can draw comfort from their enviable home record; the Manchester club has lost just a single game at the Theatre of Dreams in their last 31 encounters. Moreover Sir Alex’s team has conceded only 3 goals in Europe all season, more reasons to feel confident of a spot at Wembley.

Probable Starting Line-up: Van Der Sar, Rafael, Vidic, Smalling, Oshea, Valencia, Fletcher, Scholes, Park, Owen, Berbatov

football formations

FC Schalke

Schalke, unlike Man United, have no worries on the home front as they haven’t been in the title reckoning this season; needless to say the game at Old Trafford is their biggest of the season. Benedikt Hoewedes is still not a 100 percent but is expected to play as his absence was surely felt by the Royal Blues as they failed to contain the marauding Rooney. Other than that there isn’t any new injury woe for Rangnick; Klass Jan Huntelaar has been missing since March.

Schalke  has no option but to throw caution to the wind, Spanish legend Raul will be again looked upon to provide inspiration on and off the field. Raul has previously performed magnificently at Old Trafford for his former club Real Madrid; a repeat would be surely welcomed by Schalke supporters. Also expected to provide impetus is the enigmatic Farfan who had a torrid time in the first leg.

Metzelder was all praise for the Nemanja Vidic led United side after the first leg, this time though he would have a different set of problem at hand with Owen and Berbatov playing upfront for the Reds. Manuel Neuer’s name has been linked with Man United with amazing regularity ever since that brilliant display against Fergie’s  men in the first leg – he might be called upon to deliver yet another match saving display.

Probable Starting Line-up: Neuer; Uchida, Hoewedes, Metzelder, Sarpei; Jurado, Matip, Papadopulos, Farfan; Raul, Edu

Key Match Facts

1) United are in with a chance of getting into their 3rd final in 4 years.

2) Raul has four goals in four matches against United.

3) Raul, Papadopoulos, Sarpei and Jurado are one booking away from suspension while none of the United players are in danger.


Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United)

Time for Berbatov to shine in Europe.

In the absence of Wayne Rooney, the Bulgarian will be the nucleus of the home side as they finally hope to overcome their German jinx in Europe. Dimitar Berbatov has been in fine form at Old Trafford in the league and it’s time for him to finally deliver on the continent. Manuel Neuer Schalke’s brilliant shot stopper will however have other ideas.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Manchester United 1-0 FC Schalke 04

Ferguson will set his team out to get a result, even though Schalke might come in with an attacking frame of mind. However, scoring against this United side is no mean feat. Man United, in all likelihood, will win the game and tie, and march on to Wembley to emulate the class of ‘68.