Champions League semi: United beats Schalke 2-0

Manchester United defeated Schalke 2-0 Tuesday in the first leg
of their Champions League semifinal on a burst of second-half goals
by Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney.

Rooney set up one goal and scored another two minutes later
Tuesday, putting United in strong position to reach the May 28
final at Wembley against Real Madrid or Barcelona. The second leg
is next week at Old Trafford.

The 37-year-old Giggs became the oldest player to score in the
competition, according to European soccer’s governing body.

”An amazing man, his peak seems to have lasted so long,”
United manager Alex Ferguson said. ”He doesn’t show any sign of
receding.”

Ferguson lauded his team for a ”fantastic performance” that he
called one of the best in his 25 years as United’s manager.

Giggs scored in the 67th minute off Rooney’s pass. Rooney then
struck in 69th minute after United had wasted a dozen chances
against the unheralded German club.

”We have to say without envy that we never had a grip on the
game except for the first 15 minutes,” Schalke defender Christoph
Metzelder said. ”We were clearly outplayed.”

Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer made a string of fine saves to
keep his team in the match for more than an hour despite strong
pressure. Manchester United maintained possession nearly two-thirds
of the game.

Rooney’s performance came on the same field where he was
infamously sent off during the 2006 World Cup in England’s
quarterfinal loss to Portugal.

”Schalke are a good team and we can’t take them lightly,”
Rooney said. ”We need to make sure we are professional and full
concentrated.”

Neuer, praised by his coach as one of the best ‘keepers in the
world, finally yielded a goal on a play orchestrated by Rooney. He
held off three defenders and slipped a perfect pass to Giggs, who
put the ball between Neuer’s legs.

Two minutes later, Javier Hernandez ran unchallenged to the edge
of the penalty area. He passed to Rooney, who drove a low shot past
Neuer inside the near post.

”I think we showed too much respect from the start,” said
Neuer, whose team had knocked out defending champion Inter Milan in
the quarterfinals. ”We had trouble winning the ball and did not
defend well.”

United is seeking its fourth title in the competition; Schalke
is in its first semifinal. Schalke had been unbeaten at home until
the semifinal, while United still has yet to concede a goal away
from home.

The Red Devils previously were eliminated four times against
German opponents – in the semifinals against Borussia Dortmund
(1997) and Bayer Leverkusen (2002) and twice against Bayern Munich
in the quarterfinals (2001, 2010).

Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick understands what awaits in the next
leg.

”We really have nothing to lose now,” he said. ”We won’t give
up.”