United cruise into Champions League final

Manchester United 4 Schalke 1 (Manchester United win 6-1 on aggregate)

Manchester United's shadow squad secured a repeat of their 2009 Champions League final with Barcelona, but United boss Sir Alex Ferguson left no-one in any doubt that Sunday's Premier League crunch with Chelsea is the most important task of the week.

First-half goals from Antonio Valencia and Darron Gibson ensured there was no way back for Schalke, who were already two goals down from the first leg, and a late double from Anderson completed a handsome victory.

For Gibson in particular it represented a fitting riposte to the critics who forced him off Twitter last week after spending barely two hours exposed to a demanding public.

And Ferguson got exactly what he wanted too, namely the chance of revenge over Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, who was watching from the stands, for that one-sided encounter in Rome.

But crucially, he also kept all his main players fresh for the visit of Carlo Ancelotti's side, who will seize top spot with two games left if they win.

Eight changes from the weekend defeat at Arsenal was not so much a calculated gamble as a starting line-up born out of necessity from a manager who simply could not afford to risk injury.

As a result, Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand found themselves in the unusual position of not being required at all for a semi-final decider in club football's biggest competition, while four more key men started on the bench.

Ferguson must have factored into his thinking that the Germans simply could not be as bad as they were on home soil eight days ago.

They were certainly more solid in the opening stages, as was Gibson's stomach as he took an accidental kick from Jefferson Farfan.

United had an early chance to settle the tie when Dimitar Berbatov wriggled into space with some deft skill by the dead ball line, only to allow Manuel Neuer to intercept his cross as Antonio Valencia waited for a tap-in.

Chris Smalling was similarly frustrated the next time Berbatov found himself with a crossing opportunity.

The nervousness soon disappeared though as Anderson quickly switched a stray pass into Gibson's path.

He picked out Valencia and, unlike last week, United did not need 11 chances before finding the net as the Ecuadorian sent his precise effort through Neuer's legs.

Ferguson celebrated with the gusto of a man who felt the tie was over, his total confidence in a squad so many have doubted vindicated once more.

Within five minutes United had their second. The same three players were involved again too as Anderson used his strength to provide Valencia with a return pass.

He rolled the ball into Gibson's path, although the Irishman would be the first to admit he benefited from a huge slice of good fortune as Neuer inexplicably fumbled, proving he is not perfect after all given last week's heroics.

It was simply unthinkable that United might lose a four-goal advantage, but Jose Jurado gave them something to ponder almost immediately when he profited from back-to-back errors by Smalling and Rafael.

To follow the burst of goals, three yellow cards were dished out with even greater speed, condemning United's entire central midfield trio to walk a disciplinary tightrope for the remainder of the game.

The most vulnerable of the three was obviously Paul Scholes, who collected his caution for failing to retreat at a free-kick rather than one of his trademark wild tackles.

But tonight there was never any danger of the 36-year-old overstepping the mark.

Gibson had already made a positive impact, as had Anderson. The Brazilian is still bedevilled by inconsistent performances, but this was a good one.

He even managed to do something he has never managed during his entire time at United, score twice in a game.

His first was due to his persistence, firing home with a shot on the turn after he had been crowded out of his first attempt to finish Nani's low cross.

The second was a tap-in thanks to Berbatov's unselfish square ball.

With Darren Fletcher returning after two months out and no-one suspended for the final, everything had gone right for Ferguson and his team.

But the true test this week will come from another team in blue, desperate to retain their title and thirsting for revenge at being eliminated from this very competition at the quarter-final stage.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam