Manchester United FC will have to improve an ominous record against German opposition in two-legged UEFA Champions League ties when they meet FC Schalke 04 in the semi-finals.
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Manchester United FC will go into their UEFA Champions League semi-final against FC Schalke 04 as overwhelming favourites, but Sir Alex Ferguson will be all too aware that his club does not have the best record against German opposition in knockout competition.
Since defeat by eventual winners Borussia Dortmund in the 1997 semi-finals, United have struggled to get the better of Bundesliga teams in two-legged ties in Europe's elite club competition. They lost to FC Bayern München in the last eight in 2001 and the following year Bayer 04 Leverkusen halted their run in the semi-finals on away goals. Sir Alex's side succumbed to Bayern in last season's quarter-finals in similar fashion.
It is an ominous record to take into their last-four tie on 26 April and 4 May, and as well as facing up to their German hoodoo, the Red Devils must also counter the threat of Raúl González. The former Real Madrid CF striker boasts four UEFA Champions League goals in three games against the Premier League leaders.
Sir Alex's side, however, will be buoyed by their 3-1 aggregate defeat of Chelsea FC and remain on course to repeat their treble-winning feat of 1999. That, of course, culminated with their most famous meeting with German opposition of all: the dramatic 2-1 victory against Bayern in the UEFA Champions League final.
Schalke's record in European semi-finals leaves a little to be desired, too, winning just one of their previous three attempts, against CD Tenerife in the 1997 UEFA Cup en route to the title.
United's record against German sides in two-legged meetings in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage:
1996/97 semi-finals: Dortmund 1-0 United; United 0-1 Dortmund (United lose 2-0 on agg)
Trailing to René Tretschok's goal, Sir Alex's side began the second leg confident of turning the tie in their favour at Old Trafford. However, Lars Ricken's eighth-minute strike upset their best-laid plans and United's wait for a first final since 1968 continued. Dortmund went on to lift the trophy courtesy of a 3-1 success against Juventus in Munich.
2000/01 quarter-finals: United 0-1 Bayern; Bayern 2-1 United (United lose 3-1 on agg)
If substitute Paulo Sergio's goal four minutes from time at Old Trafford had United reeling, Giovanne Elber's strike five minutes into the second leg delivered the knockout blow. Mehmet Scholl put them further in arrears, rendering Ryan Giggs' reply just after the restart scant consolation.
2001/02 semi-finals: United 2-2 Leverkusen; Leverkusen 1-1 United (United lose on away goals)
A Leverkusen side featuring Dimitar Berbatov were the next Bundesliga outfit to conquer a United team reeling from the broken metatarsal David Beckham sustained in the previous round against RC Deportivo La Coruña. After drawing 2-2 at Old Trafford, Roy Keane put United ahead in the return only for the diminutive Oliver Neuville to see Klaus Toppmöller's side through.
2009/10 quarter-finals: Bayern 2-1 United; United 3-2 Bayern (United lose on away goals)
It all started so well for United in the second leg, racing into a three-goal lead to overturn the 2-1 first-leg defeat. The hosts' ambitions of reaching a third consecutive final began to unravel in a six-minute spell either side of half-time as Ivica Olić scored and Rafael was sent off. They were over when Arjen Robben's stunning volley flashed past Edwin van der Sar with 14 minutes left.