[SCHALKE 04-MANCHESTER UNITED]The first semifinal in the UEFA Champions League was a decidedly one-sided affair. Manchester United's 2-0 win over Schalke 04 in Gelsenkirchen made the second leg at Old Trafford all but a formality -- and gives United manager Alex Ferguson some room to maneuver as United's battle for the English Premier League title continues against Arsenal Sunday.
“It was a top performance and credit to the players for their belief in themselves and the trust in each other,” Ferguson said. “It ranks as one of our best [performances in Europe].”
United got second-half goals from Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney.
The 37-year-old Giggs could have had more goals, but Schalke goalie Manuel Neuer stopped the Welshman twice in the first half.
“This is strange because his peak seems to have lasted so long now,” said Ferguson of Giggs. “I see no evidence of this waning. He won’t be playing on Sunday [against Arsenal], he’ll be playing next Wednesday [in the Schalke return game] and when he gets that freshness he shows no signs of weakness. He is an amazing man.”
Ferguson, who said he might make some changes for next week's second leg, was full of praise for Neuer, who almost single-handedly kept Schalke in the game in the first half.
"He was fantastic," the United manager said. "It was one of the best performances I've seen against Manchester United."
Neuer's contract with Schalke expires at the end of next season. He has been linked with a move to United, where starting goalie Edwin van der Saar will be retiring at the end of this season.
Ferguson pleaded ignorance about any plans on landing the 25-year-old German keeper, noting that he believed Bayern Munich had the inside track on signing him.