Schalke would rather play Manchester United than Barcelona claims Christoph Metzelder

Schalke defender Christoph Metzelder has declared he would prefer to be playing Manchester United tonight than Barcelona.

Although United start their 12th European Cup semi-final as favourites to reach the final at Wembley on May 28, history suggests they will not have it easy.

Twice the Red Devils have fallen to German opposition at this stage during Sir Alex Ferguson's reign and despite their poor form in the Bundesliga, Schalke's five-goal hammering of Inter Milan earlier this month indicates they are worthy challengers.

And Metzelder knows United are not quite the force of old despite their presence at the top of the Premier League.

"Every nation might have its likes and its dislikes but I know we would not have liked to play against Barcelona," said Metzelder.

"But we have to be realistic. We will not score five against Manchester United.

"They are a very disciplined team, who do not let you have the opportunity to score goals. It will be two very tight games."

The game has particular significance for Rangnick as it takes the 52-year-old back to his youth.

As a student in the late 1970s, he spent a year at Sussex University, regularly travelling to London to fulfil a lifelong passion with the beautiful game, either by watching Tottenham or Arsenal.

Occasionally, he would venture to the Goldstone Ground, which at the time housed a Brighton side good enough to hold their own in England's highest league.

"It was a wonderful feeling to see the support for everything," he said.

"I am looking forward to the atmosphere, both tomorrow and at Old Trafford. In England you don't get situations where the fans whistle in displeasure. It is real support."

However, Rangnick is not so starstruck as to be deflected from a path to glory.

And, rather than view the position as a negative, the Schalke coach views his side's relative inexperience as a pretty significant positive.

"Sir Alex Ferguson has more experience and has won many more trophies," he observed.

"Manchester United do have a very experienced team, on average three to four years older than ours.

"But maybe the fact we are more inexperienced means we are a really hungry team with more passion.

"It is something that makes this match all the more alluring for our team.

"Our players are in this position for the first time, with the exception of Raul, who might be there for the last time.

"We have to show what we can achieve and get the best out of it, so hopefully, this will be a benefit for us."