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Manchester United FC secured a Wembley date with FC Barcelona on 28 May, their fifth appearance in European football's showpiece game, with a comprehensive victory against FC Schalke 04.
Antonio Valencia and Darron Gibson scored inside the opening third to turn Schalke's already herculean task into a mission impossible. Although José Manuel Jurado replied before the break, Anderson's second-half double sealed a 6-1 aggregate triumph and Sir Alex Ferguson can now start devising a plan to avenge United's 2009 UEFA Champions League final loss to Barcelona.
United will be going back to the future in their quest for a fourth European crown. It was at the old Wembley in 1968 that they first held aloft the European Champion Clubs' Cup. The presence of Barcelona, meanwhile, provides a rematch of not just Rome 2009 but also the 1991 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final in Rotterdam that brought Sir Alex his first European trophy as United manager.
Whatever Wembley brings, one certainty is the watching Josep Guardiola will face a very different United lineup. Sir Alex, mindful of Sunday's potentially decisive Premier League meeting with Chelsea FC, included just two of the players who had started in Gelsenkirchen – Edwin van der Sar and Valencia – and it was the latter who took them a step closer to the final after 26 minutes.
By contrast with the first leg, where United created numerous chances before breaking through, they got the better of Manuel Neuer at virtually the first attempt. Although Jefferson Farfán dragged an early shot wide for the visitors, it was at the other end where the key first goal came. When a Schalke move broke down inside their half, Anderson slipped the ball inside to Gibson and his defence-splitting pass sent Valencia clear of Sergio Escudero to beat Neuer with a low finish.
Schalke put five past FC Internazionale Milano at San Siro in the previous round but repeating the feat here always appeared unlikely – United, after all, had never lost a European home tie by two goals. Ralf Rangnick's men now needed three and their plight worsened five minutes later when an error by Neuer, so good in the first leg, brought United their second. Gibson's 15-metre shot had power but flew straight at the goalkeeper; however, Neuer was unable to adjust his feet to get fully behind the ball and instead it struck his arms and deflected in off the post.
Schalke's noisy supporters did have a goal to celebrate in the 35th minute when Jurado swept a first-time shot past Van der Sar after some uncertain United defending. Even then, though, it took Benedikt Höwedes to stop United restoring a two-goal advantage as he cleared off the line from Valencia.
Schalke did their best to apply some pressure after the restart, Farfán's shot deflecting behind, but United came again. Although Neuer denied Anderson with a flying save, the Brazilian gilded the lily with two late goals, doubling his United tally in the process. After 72 minutes Valencia surged down the right and the Brazilian, after an initial block by Kyriakos Papadopoulos, finished at the second attempt before making it four with a tap-in after good work by Valencia and Dimitar Berbatov. United were through with a flourish.
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