|photo by stevendepolo||via PhotoRee|
So, the Bundesliga and (by association) the Serie A were exposed today, shown to be fraudulent, second rate leagues that can't play with the same tempo, energy, attacking style and panache as the best team in England. If this sounds offensive, untruthful, or a gross generalization, I advise you to go back and review the carnage that occurred tonight in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Manchester United absolutely and unequivocally tore apart Schalke 04, bit by bit and limb by limb. Although the final scoreline read a flattering 2-nil in favor of the once and future English champions, the margin could have easily been double or quadruple that amount -- the Reds were just that good.
In perhaps their most dominant, mature performance of the entire season, United could do virtually nothing wrong this evening at the Veltins Arena. They dominated the German side right from the opening whistle, controlling the ball a Barca-like 66% of the game, and shaking Schalke like a headless rag doll for the full ninety minutes. Only a master class in goalkeeping from future Bayern Munich star Manuel Neuer kept his side in the game. Looking very much overmatched by the occasion, the Germans were rarely able to threaten United's goal, and looked a different class and breed of footballer than their rivals in red.
Virtually every single Manchester United player looked superior to their opposite on the pitch, with United dominating the midfield and springing repeated attacks on their hosts. Michael Carrick looked back to his best form of two to three years ago, pulling the strings in midfield and orchestrating a passing clinic that left the Germans chasing shadows. United almost doubled the number of passes Schalke completed, 754 to 386, and were allowed so much time on the ball that it wouldn't have been surprising to learn post-game that the Germans were playing with only nine men. On the other side of the ball, I lost track of the number of turnovers the Reds created, causing constant mayhem and disrupting any sense of rhythm the hosts tried to create.
Park and Valenica were energetic and everywhere tonight, attacking from the flanks and sending ball after ball into the box. Only United's profilgate ways in front of net, combined with Neuer's acrobatics in front of goal, kept the score tied going into the interval. Giggsy and Chicharito combined to miss a dozen opportunities between themselves before the visitors were finally able to grab the lead. Two short minutes later and the tie was close to settled, with Rooney's 70th minute tally bringing United's road goal total to two.
United's defense was its typical steady self, although to be fair they were hardly tested. Vidic made almost as many offensive plays as defensive ones, and Rio could have well spent the match resting his back on the bench for all he was called upon. Fabio -- doing remarkably well for a rookie -- and Evra -- playing much better over the last few games -- turned in swashbuckling performances, bombing forward so often and effortlessly on attack they could easily have been mistaken for wingers.
If United were concerned going into the match about the dreaded German hoodoo, they left that old wives' tale in tatters in Gelsekirchen tonight. Sir Alex proved once again he is the European master, putting forward almost the same side that took down Chelsea in the prior round. The fact that his favored side excludes the EPL's leading scorer (Berbatov) and assist creator (Nani) serves only as a mere curious footnote to the evening's master class performance.
This is farlieonfootie for April 27.