Manchester United 4-1 Schalke: Gibson stars against a still-rubbish Schalke
Darron Gibson managed to defy his Twitter critics tonight as he helped Manchester United book their trip to Wembley Stadium with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Schalke.
The Irish international set up Antonio Valencia’s opening goal of the second leg with a incisive pass before getting on the scoresheet himself with a well taken strike in the 31st minute, admittedly through a goal which had a huge hand from an uncharacteristic Manuel Neuer howler (see below).
It’s unclear, however, whether Gibson’s starring performance in an under strength United team tonight will be enough to lure the Derry man back to Twitter, having been hounded from the micro-blogging site through a torrent of abuse from 'fans' just hours after setting up his ‘DGibbo28’ account.
The 6-1 aggregate victory sets up a tantalising Champions League 2009 rematch against Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on May 29. A studious Pep Guardiola sat in the stands of Old Trafford tonight, though he must acknowledge that some of United’s brightest players tonight (Anderson, Gibson, Smalling) may not feature at all in three-and-a-half weeks time.
A fabulous volley from Schalke’s Jurado didn’t trouble the Red Devils, however, who ran away with the tie in the second half with a brace from Portuguese international Anderson. United’s win means that Sir Alex Ferguson’s men managed to complete an entire Champions League run without a single home defeat.
Overall, German Cup finalists Schalke were little threat throughout the game, wasting chances through errant passes and later, finding frustration with a sequence of highly ambitious long-distance shots from striker Edu.
Although perceived initially as a risk upon Sir Alex Ferguson's part beforehand, the decision to field a weakened United side, while keeping a close eye on this weekend's title-deciding tie against Chelsea, ultimately paid handsome dividends for the Premier League leaders.
Though Barcelona will likely be the bookies favourite on May 28, one shouldn't rule out the exceptionally resilient side's abilities, especially when tasked with winning a third Champions League trophy for their legendary boss on home soil.