The Reasons Man Utd Managed To Overcome Schalke…
After watching the first half, Manchester United could have very easily succumbed to the pressure, but instead, they dug in deeper to get a great result against Schalke 04.
A series of world-class saves by Schalke’s goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, looked to have Reds facing yet another frustrating result, but goals from Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney in a two-minute span during the second half has given them a sound advantage heading into the return leg at Old Trafford.
Ahead of the match though, Sir Alex Ferguson praised his players for their mindset to never give in, and this commanding, fully-deserved result at the business end of the season rubber-stamped the manager’s bold statement.
In competitions like the Champions League, teams need to have a little bit of luck to advance to the latter stages, but the Reds used their compelling attributes that dictated this result from the start. Up front, the Reds needed to rely on patience and persistence to eventually get this victory, but, with that, the defenders had to remain disciplined and concentrated on their task at hand.
The Reds have yet to lose in Europe since giving up a last-gasp winner to Bayern Munich in last year’s quarterfinal, a 12-game unbeaten run, and that is because they really come together as a team.
In their six games away from Old Trafford in the Champions League this season, the Reds have not conceded a goal, which is a testament to their total team defending. To be totally honest, Schalke fluffed up their stats by registering five shots on target, because never really looked like ending that streak of 540 scoreless minutes.
Coming into this match, Schalke scored an impressive 21 goals in their Champions League matches, including seven against Inter Milan in the Quarterfinals, and with United boasting one of the best defenses in the competition, something had to give. And, impressively, it was not United’s impenetrable defense on the road.
The most amazing thing about this streak is that the Reds have used numerous combinations all across the back-four. Because of either injuries, suspensions or fatigue, Ferguson has had to use all nine of his defenders that are in his Champions League squad this season, and rarely have any of them let him down.
Against the Royal Blues, Fabio stepped in at right-back, and even though the young Brazilian was booked, he never looked out of place or troubled by his opposing attackers. There are reasons why the back-four was not as troubled as they should have been by Schalke, and it started right in front of them.
When a team dominates the possession of the ball, they must be weary of the opposing team hitting them on the counterattack and get the odd goal. On the rare occasion that Schalke managed to get the ball back, their attack was folded before it even got to the back-four.
Michael Carrick, who will never be valued because he is not a hard-nosed midfielder, made timely interceptions and started numerous waves of the United attack by being smartly positioned and anticipating. The midfielder has a unwavering calmness about him, which even showed through when he gifted the ball to Yaya Toure in the FA Cup Semifinal, and that mentality enables Carrick to be much more relaxed.
Although he is constantly belittled by some uneducated supporters for not being a box-to-box center mid, Carrick is doing the intangibles in the engine to combat those skills, and they are not going unnoticed with the manager, because he features in all of the big matches that United has.
One thing that may go unnoticed is that Carrick’s defensive awareness allowed his center midfield partner push forward and join in the United attack.
Giggs was able to operate in roaming role to help Rooney and Chicharito breaking down the Schalke defenders. His combination play with Rooney was clicking throughout the match, but, unfortunately, Giggs was left frustrated by Neuer on two different occasions, and he missed another glorious chance altogether.
Finally, their resolute mentality paid off as they carved the Royal Blues wide-open with a wonderfully worked goal. Rooney’s pass was unpredictable and precise, and Giggs’ run was timed to perfection and he was able to pick his spot with assertiveness.
Frustration was very close to setting in before that goal went in, and it did not come as a real surprise that once the gate was opened, the Reds snatched another quickly. Two minutes later, and after some fantastic off-the-ball movement from both Javier Hernandez and Rooney, the latter picked his spot and the first leg was all but settled.
Now, one thing that Sir Alex Ferguson will have to eliminate is his players thinking that this two-legged affair has already been decided, because it would be one of the biggest let downs in the history of the club if Manchester United blew their deserved advantage and not make it to the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final.
Submitted by The United Religion
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