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May 4, 2011

Ferguson: United team did me proud

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he was relieved his second string Manchester United side cruised past Schalke and into the final of the Champions League.

• Jolly: Gibson the hero
• Champions League Gallery
• Blog: Gibson for Ballon d'Or

Ferguson made nine changes from the team that dismantled the Germans in the first leg and acknowledged he was slightly apprehensive before the game as to whether it was the right thing to do.

But two goals from Anderson and further strikes from Antonio Valencia and Darron Gibson vindicated Ferguson's decision to rest his front line stars ahead of a huge Premier League showdown with Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday.

"They did me proud,'' he said of the team that secured a final against Barcelona at Wembley on May 28. "It was a semi-final and the fact it's such an important game does create a bit of doubt in your mind of 'Am I doing the right thing?' but I'm glad we were vindicated.

"It's fantastic for the club. We're where we want to be. I've said many times we should have done better in Europe over the years and I think this team can win the cup.''

Ferguson feels they are better equipped to face Barcelona than two years ago.

He said: "We were the favourites the last time and maybe we have a little more experience. But this year and last year Barcelona's form has been brilliant. It should be a really good final. It should represent the history and traditions of both clubs. There is a different set of traditions with Real Madrid and Barcelona because of their tribalism and history. They have always been the two biggest clubs in Spain and the rivalry is intense.

"I don't think we should be going there lacking in confidence. Their form has been very good this season and we will be playing a fantastic team. But they haven't got a terror against us. We cannot be frightened out of our skin. We have got to find a solution to playing against them.''

To that end, Ferguson will be making contact with old friend Jose Mourinho, who has suffered painfully at Barcelona's hands already this season, most recently this week when Real Madrid were turned over in their own semi-final.

"I speak to him quite a lot,'' said Ferguson. "Real are a different team from us for a start. It's not as if we haven't seen them before. I have watched them many times this season but we will take the information because Jose is very helpful that way.''

Ferguson will become only the second manager to lead a team into four European Cup finals, although he jokingly wished the opposition was slightly easier after goals from Antonio Valencia, Darron Gibson and a second-half brace from Anderson secured a 4-1 win on the night.

"I wish it was Brechin City or someone like that,'' he laughed. "At the start of the season if you look at the final, you think steer clear of Barcelona because their performance is there for everyone to see. But we have done our job well and our away form has been terrific. Wembley is a neutral ground but I think we'll be quite well prepared.''

Darren Fletcher returned after a virus and is now in with a chance of playing a part in the run-in. Ferguson said: "One advantage we've got is that we've got no players missing for the final. For Darren now, he's catching up all the time. We've got three weeks to assess the situation.

"He is looking okay and putting him in from the start wouldn't have been fair to him because he really does need games. Some players are big-game players and he's a big-game player.''

Edwin van der Sar also hailed United's "perfect" demolition of Schalke. He told ITV1: "It was perfect, after the first leg we were quite well set up to be able to make changes and keep the majority of players fresh for the big game on Sunday.

"We saw how emotional Barcelona were yesterday and maybe our reaction was a bit more subdued but Barca's was because they have a big rivalry (against Real Madrid).

"Barcelona play exceptionally good football and of course it's going to be difficult, they showed that in the final in 2009. We have to show we learned the lesson from that one and be better prepared.''

Wayne Rooney, who was rested due to a tight hamstring, said on Twitter: "Gibbo was class tonight, Scholes ran the show. Valencia - world class. Nice to see Andow [Anderson] score too. Great team performance."

Rio Ferdinand also said on Twitter: "Manager shuffled the pack (squad) + got the result we wanted, great use of our squad. Lads were quality 2nite. Every1 saying how bad a team Schalke are et ... you weren't saying that when they knocked Valencia + Inter Milan out before."

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