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Manchester United cruises into final

Crushes Schalke 4-1 at home to set up a clash with Barcelona

MANCHESTER: Manchester United has a chance to avenge its comprehensive loss to Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League final after a makeshift side crushed Schalke on Wednesday to record the biggest semifinal win in 22 years.

Anderson's rare double after goals from Antonio Valencia and Darron Gibson clinched a 4-1 victory to send United through to its third final in four years, 6-1 on aggregate.

“Barcelona play extremely good football, it's going to be difficult,” said United keeper Edwin van der Sar, likely to play his last game in the final before retiring.

“We have to make sure we learned our lesson (from two years ago), be better prepared and deal with them in a different way. Hopefully it'll be a better outcome,” he said.

The United side for the May 28 final at Wembley is unlikely to resemble the side that Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola watched at Old Trafford.

Key players rested

Manager Alex Ferguson retained just three players from the side that lost at Arsenal in the Premier League as the leader prepares for Sunday's match against second-place Chelsea.

The Arsenal setback means it is vital to United's quest for a record 19th English title not to lose to Chelsea or the leader will be toppled by the second-place London club.

Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand were left out completely, while Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra sat on the bench.

“I didn't sleep last night thinking about it,” Ferguson said of his team selection. “They did me proud.”

United only had one brief scare when Jose Manuel Jurado scored for Schalke. By then, though, United had already stormed into a 2-goal lead on the night.

“Wembley here we come,” Rooney wrote on Twitter. “Looking forward to Sunday now. Big result needed.”

Darron Gibson was among those brought into the United side and he sprayed the ball forward to Valencia with pinpoint precision before the winger clipped the ball past Manuel Neuer in the 26th minute.

Gibson was on the scoresheet himself five minutes later after a blunder that defied Neuer's current standing as one of Europe's most sought-after goalkeepers. Neuer allowed Gibson's strike from the edge of the penalty area to slip through his gloves into the net.

Just when United was cruising, though, a sloppy pass from Chris Smalling gave the visitor a lifeline, with Jose Manuel Jurado scoring for Schalke.

There was a brief delay in the match as attention was averted to the high seating behind the opposite goal where Schalke fans clashed with the United stewards, let off flares and ripped up netting.

But the situation soon calmed down as United was completely in the ascendancy in one of the easiest matches it has played all season.

Anderson was first denied by Neuer's fingertip save but he ended the night by taking his United tally to four since arriving in 2007, having only scored twice in 125 appearances before Wednesday.

Nani darted down the right and cut the ball back to the Brazilian, who resisted Atsuto Uchida's challenge and wriggled into space to net in the 72nd. Again the right flank was the weak point, with Berbatov surging forward and squaring to the feet of Anderson, who tapped into the net.

It gave United the biggest victory in a European Cup semifinal since AC Milan beat Real Madrid 6-1 over two legs in the 1988-89 season.

The result: Manchester United 4 (Valencia 26, Gibson 31, Anderson 72 & 76) bt Schalke 04 1 (Jurado 35). Manchester United wins 6-1 on aggregate . — AP

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