Neuer stars for Schalke despite loss

If Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was trying to make his case

for a move to Manchester United, he certainly made an impression on

Tuesday – even if he could not prevent Alex Ferguson’s men from

winning 2-0 in the first leg of their Champions League

semifinal.

Neuer single-handedly kept Schalke in the match for more than

hour before conceding goals to Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney in the

67th and 69th minutes respectively.

For both goals, it was more a case of Neuer being let down by

his teammates, rather than a mistake by the Germany keeper.

United manager Alex Ferguson called Neuer’s performance ”one of

the finest” he’s seen against his team.

Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick said Neuer proved he was one of the

best goalies in the world. ”We can only thank Manuel that we

weren’t two or three goals down by halftime,” he said.

In fact, Schalke could have been down by six or more, were it

not for Neuer’s heroics.

One of his finest saves came when he denied Giggs late in the

first half. One on one with the Schalke keeper, Giggs slipped the

ball past Neuer, but the 25-year-old goalie somehow stuck out his

right hand to palm the ball away.

In the 28th minute, Neuer made a stunning reflex save from a

close-range header from Giggs off a cross by captain Nemanja

Vidic.

Ferguson said he saw a ”sense of frustration” in his players

as they went off the pitch after a first half during which they

wasted a dozen chances.

”I think we showed too much respect from the start,” Neuer

said. ”We had trouble winning the ball and did not defend

well.”

Neuer’s contract with Schalke ends in 2012 and the goalkeeper

and the team’s captain has said he will leave the club where he’s

been playing since preschool days.

A move this summer to Bayern Munich was reportedly a done deal,

but some German media have also linked Neuer with Manchester

United.

Ferguson has professed ignorance about any such move, but his

current goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar is retiring at the end of this

season.

Neuer became Germany’s No. 1 goalkeeper when Bayer Leverkusen’s

Rene Adler injured his shoulder and missed last year’s World

Cup.

Neuer got the chance and used it. Now he is being compared to

Oliver Kahn, the last of Germany’s many star goalkeepers.