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.”