It is immensely satisfying to see the cavalcade of doubters who emerged in the hour after the team was announced be forced to eat a large slice of humble pie.
It was somewhat astonishing to see people bad mouth the team that Ferguson choose to play. It contained numerous English league champions, 12 international players, the top scorer in the EPL and eight winners of the 2008 Champions League. Yet, people began predicting disaster.
Idiots. They seem to have forgotten not only the above, but just what kind of game Schalke played in the first leg. It is clear now that the German outfit have been punching way above their weight in the Champions League and have survived through a measure of luck and dreadful opposition.
It fell apart spectacularly tonight, thanks to Neuer reversal of form, and immense midfield display. Nani, Valencia, Gibson, and especially Anderson, can all feel very proud tonight. Berbatov played the holding role to a tee, and the defence, little troubled, was solid throughout. Two well worked goals were matched by two scrappy ones, but it does not change the fact that United may never play an easier CPL Semi-Final.
Schalke was truly shocking throughout the game. 6-1 is an embarrassment for a European Semi-Finalist, and they will have no opportunity to try to do it better next year.
United march on, and in lieu of a separate post, I’ll make some predictions now. Barca are a very good outfit. They are not unbeatable by any stretch of the imagination, but it requires a lot of factors. Players like Messi, Villa and Xavi have to be neutralised by our back four, which means Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra and O’Shea must all play 10/10 games. Our centre midfield must control that part of the park, Carrick’s pass completion rate never being more crucial. Nani and Valencia, the two I would pick for the wings, must run at Barca, take players on, do what they do best. They must be the providers for Rooney, Hernandez and Berba, who must co-ordinate, draw defenders away from their team mates, and finish when they have to. We cannot sit back against Barca as Inter did last year, United cannot effectively play that kind of football. We cannot attempt to flood the midfield as we did in the ’09 final. We must play our own kind of football.
It can be done, but being honest, I am not hopeful. There are too many things that need to happen. As it stands, I’d be happy with our 19th league title. Anything can happen of course. Time will tell.