Tag Schalke

Tag Schalke

Ferguson rings changes for Schalke

May 4, 2011 Tags: , Matches 133 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson will make wholesale changes to the Manchester United team that faces Schalke on Wednesday night, with one eye firmly on Sunday’s Premier League showdown with Chelsea. The 69-year-old Scot will include Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen and Paul Scholes in the side to face the German champions, safe in the knowledge that Schalke must score three without reply at Old Trafford to progress.

Such is United’s confidence in Europe this season – no defeats and eight victories from 11 matches – that the Scot can be forgiven for applying greater importance to the Reds’ weekend Premier League fixture. After all, Schalke’s performance in last week’s first leg was so underwhelming that few credit the former Bundesliga champions with much hope of progressing.

However, the Scot insists there is no complacency in the United camp for the tie, which could see the Reds reach a third Champions League final in the past four years. With Barcelona already in the Wembley showpiece, United must avoid a 3-0 defeat to ensure a repeat of the 2009 final.

But with United under pressure at home, Ferguson will gamble with United’s European progress against a team that scored five at Internazionale in the quarter-final.

“We feel we have a lot of work to do tomorrow,” Ferguson told the press on Tuesday.

“I think it is very easy to get complacent in modern life, there are many examples of it. But I hope nobody at Manchester United regards it as a formality tomorrow, I certainly will not be. I think the work ethic will need to be very high tomorrow, very high, in order for us to qualify.

“We know that Schalke have nothing to lose. That is the message he [Schalke’s Ralf Rangnick] will give to his team. I think they will have a go and try to win the match – there is nothing else they can do. Any coach in a semi-final must give his team that chance to try to win the match and I think we’ll find that he will have a real go.

“If you look at the experience of last year when we lost the league, the team were very tired against Chelsea after playing Bayern Munich on the Wednesday. That will have a bearing on my team selection. We’ve got two massive games, both as important as the other. There will be some changes. Hopefully the nucleus of the team is still good enough to win.”

Ferguson will rest key attacking players including Wayne Rooney, who has a tight hamstring in any case, Javier Hernández, Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia. Meanwhile Anderson, so ineffectual against Arsenal, could drop to the bench following Saturday’s defeat, with Darren Fletcher and Darron Gibson pushing for a place in United’s starting 11. Fletcher is likely to start on the bench after missing two months with a virus.

However, the Scot is likely to retain Rio Ferdinand, Edwin van der Sar and captain Nemanja Vidic in an experienced back four as United chase only the club’s fourth European Cup final win. Fabio da Silva misses out due to injury, with John O’Shea or brother Rafael coming into the side. Indeed, Ferguson says that the prize is too great for Saturday’s defeat to affect his players ahead of Schalke’s visit.

Manchester United v Schalke 04, Old Trafford, 4 May 2011“It has always been the case at this club that if we lose a game then we have to recover quickly,” added Ferguson.

“We always have work to do in the next match. That is the great beauty of football at least. You always have the next game in which to do something and we’ve only had to wait three days. That is an important issue for us because it is a part of being a good team, how you can recover from a defeat.

“The interesting thing about last weekend was that the four [Champions League semi-final] teams all lost. So European games do take it out of you. I have to pick the right team tomorrow in order to have the same kind of freshness I need for Sunday’s match.”

Meanwhile, Schalke arrives in Manchester with no pressure having frozen at the Veltins Arena last week. Despite slipping to mid-table during a fraut Bundesliga campaign, coach Rangnick has instilled an attacking mentality in the Die Königsblauen that was rarely evident against United last Tuesday. Rangnick has promised a better display at Old Trafford; it could hardly be worse.

The coach welcomes back key defender Benedikt Hoewedes, while Dutch striker Jan-Klass Huntelaar could make the bench.

“Tomorrow we will show we can play better than we did last week and that we have learnt our lessons,” Rangnick told a news conference on Tuesday.

“In football you can get the chance so we will see what happens. When we played in Milan against Inter people didn’t give us much hope either.

“I think we have to be well organised in the first 10 minutes and then we have to take our chances when they’re presented, even if there are just two minutes left. You think of Manchester United and the Champions League win [in 1999] when they came back to win 2-1.

“If Sir Alex Ferguson does spare players it shows he has belief in his squad. And if we have a chance it is up to us to perform in contrast to the first-leg. We need to take a different approach, learn from that and apply the lessons tomorrow.”

Victory for the German visitors is certainly not beyond Rangnick’s men, although an open match will allow United to strike on the counter. In Raúl Gonzales Schalke retains a potent attacking threat despite the Spaniard’s poor showing in the first leg. The 33-year-old striker scored four goals in three games against United for Real Madrid, appearing in both legs of Madrid’s quarter-final win in March 2000. Raúl hit another brace when Madrid beat United 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu in a quarter-final tie three years later.

It might take a similar effort to knock a much changed United side out.

Match Facts
Champions League semi-final, second leg. Old Trafford, Manchester, 7.45pm

United – 451 – van der Sar; O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Nani, Gibson, Scholes, Park; Owen, Berbatov. Subs from: Kuszazck, Brown, Evans, Smalling, Rafael da Silva, Anderson, Carrick, Valencia, Hernandez, Giggs.

Schalke – 4222 – Neuer; Uchida, Metzelder, Höwedes, Sarpei; Papadopoulos, Matip; Farfan, Jurado; Edu, Raúl. Subs from: Charisteas, Karimi, Sergio, Baumjohann, Schober, Avelar, Charisteas, Annan, Hao, Schmitz, Schober, Pliatsikas, Vasilias, Plestan, Kluge, Avelar, Draxler

Referee: Pedro Proença (POR)
Assistant referees: Tiago Trigo, Ricardo Santos
Additional assistant referees: João Capela, João Ferreira
Fourth official: Duarte Gomes

United – WWLDWL
Schalke – WWDLLL

Destiny still in Reds’ hands

May 3, 2011 Tags: , , , Opinion 11 comments

Recriminations over the weekend’s defeat to Arsenal, coupled with Chelsea’s fortuitous win over Tottenham Hotspur the previous day, may not be forgotten but Manchester United is still master of its own destiny on European and domestic fronts. No matter the conjecture emanating from Stamford Bridge, seven points in Manchester United’s three remaining Premier League matches will seal the title for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.

The question is whether a one-off match against Chelsea at Old Trafford will bring out the best in Ferguson’s outfit, as seen recently witnessed against the Londoners and Schalke in European competition. Indeed, Saturday’s defeat in north London owed much to United retreating from the fluid football of recent weeks, returning it seemed to the negativity that marked the Reds’ early season away performances.

Yet, at home United’s mentality is very different, where Ferguson’s outfit has won 16 of 17 fixtures in the Premier League and scored an astonishing 43 goals – a total significantly higher than any other side at home this season. Call it the ‘United way’, call it an attacking philosophy, but there is a strong suspicion that the Premier League title is the Reds’ to lose but only if the timidity seen away from Old Trafford is transported to home turf.

“We have our destiny in our hands. We have a massive game against Chelsea. If we want to win the title then we have to beat Chelsea – it’s as simple as that. If we don’t beat them then we’ll be in trouble,” says left-back Patrice Evra.

“We just need to play the Man United way. I am not worried because we know we didn’t do the things we normally do against Arsenal. We have three games left and need to win every game. Every game is a final.”

“We didn’t feel in trouble. We knew how Arsenal would play. They kept possession of the ball but never looked dangerous. Normally when we visit the Emirates we play with speed, power and aggression, and create more chances than we did on Sunday. That is why I am very disappointed.

“There were some difficult decisions but I don’t want to talk about the referee, the problem was Man United, not the referee. It is easy to find some excuse. We did not play the Man United way and when we don’t play the Man United way, we don’t deserve anything.”

The dilemma for Ferguson is whether to set his team up to play on the front foot against last season’s champions on Sunday. The equation is, of course, black and white for supporters; the United way is to attack from the opening whistle. One suspects there are greater nuances for Ferguson though, who is surely confident that his team will beat Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool in United’s final two Premier League matches.

Chelsea, meanwhile, must win at Old Trafford with tricky matches first at home to Newcastle United and then away at Everton to come. The longer United keeps the match tight against Chelsea the more likely the Londoners will be vulnerable to the counter-attack.

Yet, says striker Javier Hernández, United is expected to play for the win. Always.

“Giggs and Scholes tell us that we need to play like Manchester United players, always remembering the club’s rich history and never giving less than 100 per cent on the field,” Mexican striker Hernández told Inside United this week.

“Being a United player is about winning – you can never think about drawing or losing games. It’s that attitude that can help us to win trophies. We need to avoid silly errors to give ourselves the best chance of winning, and to play every game like it’s our last one.”

Yet, the focus among supporters at least is firmlyon United’s match with Chelsea on Sunday. If that picture is mirroed in Ferguson’s squad, there is a very real risk that the Scot’s players will take their eye off Wednesday night’s return with Schalke. After all, although the Reds are two goals to the good, Schalke scored five against Inter in Milan during the quarter-final rout.

Moreover, with Ferguson planning to rest Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Antonio Valencia and Hernández there is a very real risk that United will hand Schalke the momentum on Wednesday. It is a risk Ferguson believes is worth taking against a side United so comfortably defeated beat last week.

“If you look at the experience of last year when we lost the league, the team were very tired against Chelsea after playing Bayern Munich on the Wednesday,” Ferguson told the media on Tuesday.

“That will have a bearing on my team selection. We’ve got two massive games, both as important as the other. There will be some changes (against Schalke). Hopefully the nucleus of the team is still good enough to win.

“The interesting thing about last weekend was that the four (Champions League semi-final) teams all lost (league matches). So European games do take it out of you. I have to pick the right team tomorrow in order to have the same kind of freshness I need for Sunday’s match.”

It is a gamble Ferguson makes in the knowledge that Schalke must score three times at Old Trafford without reply to deny United a place in the 28 May final against Barcelona. Yet, defeat to Schalke – possible against a team that under-performed at home – will take further wind out of United’s sails, even if Ferguson’s side makes the final.

After all momentum at this stage of the season is key. It is perhaps why now, more than any other, Ferguson’s side must revert to the positivity that has brought the best out of his side this season.

Destiny, as Evra says, is still in the Reds’ hands.