Five Things We Learned – Champions League, United – Schalke Part 2
3) Berbatov is not to be forgotten
Wednesday night provided Dimitar Berbatov with the perfect opportunity to give Ferguson reason not to forget him at Old Trafford, despite his clear preference for the Rooney/Hernandez partnership that has proved so successful of late. This has been quite the development when one considers Berbatov’s standing as the League’s top scorer, but the emergence of Javier Hernandez has been hard to ignore. However, for the return leg against Schalke, an energetic performance was seen from the big Bulgarian forward. Although he did not find himself on the scoresheet one cannot deny his contribution.
He was to be found everywhere, looking to get involved with play, often finding himself on the left in the first half for example, even getting back to defend set pieces appropriately. A way to describe it may be to consider it a performance on behalf of his team, working well with those around him in trying to create chances, culminating in him setting up Anderson’s second goal, a selfless act when he could have easily taken it on himself. A well-deserved round of applause was given upon his exit for Michael Owen late on, who incidentally provided evidence for his efficacy has a substitute, looking sharp and generally providing a threat. The fact that Ferguson has four strong strikers at his disposal will certainly be a comforting thought at such a late stage of the season.
4) Anderson doubled his career tally at United…. in one game
2 goals, 127 appearances. Now, 4 goals and 128 appearances. If there was one player that could sum up United’s performance on Wednesday evening, then one could look to Anderson as an example to demonstrate the energy and positive play that gave United such an attacking threat. The young Brazilian midfielder looked lively, always willing to take the ball forward and impose himself on the Schalke back line, as well as looking to carve open the defence and create chances to score.
One argument has always been that he has not scored enough in his time at Old Trafford, so one can imagine the surprise when he popped up with two goals in one evening! The first was a strong finish after persevering in winning the ball from the defender to slot past. The second came when Berbatov found himself open on goal, only to slip a pass to an open Anderson to tap in and to add insult to injury. Of course, United always looked to add more to their tally, especially with the risk of a miraculous comeback almost non-existant. Constant calls of “shoot!” from the United faithful backing up the attacking mood United found themselves in, turning into a night to enjoy instead of tension that some may have expected.
As well as this, one must take into account the good performance of the makeshift defensive unit that had been put together, doing their job adequately in not allowing mistakes to happen and provide Schalke with chances to claw their way back into the tie.
5) United are going to Wembley
Regardless of what some may say about the quality of United’s German opponents, one must remember that this is the same team that decimated Inter Milan in the previous round. The fact that United swept them aside is not to be scoffed at, and to reach the Champion’s League final is an achievement that is not to be dismissed. The chance for honours is one that is tantalisingly close and Barcelona will provide the ultimate in opposition in the way of European glory.
Although the Catalan side have had their glistening image dented somewhat by the antics in “El Clasico” of late, the quality of their side is unquestionable, and it will take tactical superiority as well as perfect team selection to give Sir Alex Ferguson the chance of bringing another European Cup back to Old Trafford, as he so craves. Barcelona will more than likely be favourites for the trip to Wembley, but one must say United have proved they have the quality to make it to the final, therefore also possess the quality to give them a chance at defeating the Spanish League leaders. The United faithful have every reason to be in high spirits for the coming weeks.