Ferguson: One of our best ever
Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed Manchester United's dominant 2-0 win at Schalke as one of the club's finest European performances under his lengthy stewardship.
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A stunning display by Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer kept the semi-final tie alive ahead of the return leg at Old Trafford but the German side will need to produce an incredible turnaround to take advantage of his heroics based on the flow of Tuesday night's clash.
United's ineffective finishing, which left them scoreless until Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney struck in quick succession midway through the second half, could be the only criticism of an impressive outing. United's defence largely restricted Schalke to hopeful long-range attempts as Ferguson's team became the first side to complete an entire set of Champions League away games without conceding a goal.
"The concentration issue is important away from home in Europe,'' Ferguson said. "It is a different tempo at times and requires really good concentration. Credit to the players. They have shown that throughout the campaign. But over the past two or three years we have got a way of playing in Europe away from home. It requires some experience of course. The most important thing is to have confidence in possession of the ball."
There has been much discussion about how the current United squad stacks up against some of Ferguson's other groups, with the success of the current crop widely put down more to their collective mentality and their manager's expert rotation than the showy superstars of previous eras.
That argument aside, Ferguson was convinced his current team produced a European performance to match any other in his time at Old Trafford.
"Overall I was delighted. It was a top performance. We have had some fantastic performances in Europe during my time. Juventus in Juventus in 1999 obviously will always be high on the list but this certainly ranks as one of the best.''
Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick could only reflect on a disastrous night for his team, with only Neuer emerging with any real credit, even in the coach's eyes.
"We started quite well. Then it all went wrong,'' he said. "We gave them too much space and could have been behind by three goals at half-time if it had not been for Manuel Neuer. He is the best goalkeeper in the world but you don't need this performance to confirm that. If you see his development over the last few years he is absolutely top class.
"But for the goals, we just stood around and watched. You can't do that. We are not going to capitulate though. Manchester United have a better chance to reach the final but strange things happen in football. However, we do need to improve.''