|1||Van der Sar|
Make no mistake, this was as accomplished a Champions League semi-final performance you could wish to see as United had Schalke chasing shadows in a comprehensive 2-0 victory.
There's still a second leg to come before the manager and anybody else will be thinking of planning for Wembley but, in truth, only Manuel Neuer's brilliance saved his side from an embarrassing scoreline.
Neuer defied United virtually single-handedly before two quickfire goals - by Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney - ensured justice was done. Rooney was the provider for Giggs' opener and then found the net himself after cunning play by strike partner Javier Hernandez.
Sir Alex Ferguson opted for a 4-4-2 formation with in-form Hernandez proving impossible to leave out. Fabio started at right-back with Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Giggs and Ji-sung Park forming the midfield quartet.
In a breathless opening period, both sides carved out chances with Edwin van der Sar worked by Alexander Baumjohann and Edu while Neuer showed his class at the other end. Rooney drifted inside to force a diving stop out of the Schalke skipper, who then beat out a Park drive. Some fine work by Fabio and Valencia led to Hernandez stretching to test Neuer again. Hernandez was then in a one-on-one with the keeper in the 14th minute when Park's astute through ball found him just onside but the Mexican couldn't squeeze his finish under Germany's number one.
Hernandez remained the man likeliest to open the scoring as he rippled the side-netting with a left-footed effort and then made the wrong decision in trying to return a pass to Rooney rather than going for goal himself. Chicharito seemed to be finding space easily and, when he was beautifully picked