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27 Apr 2011

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson hailed the 2-0 win at Schalke in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final as "one of the best".

United were dominant in Germany and Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney both scored to leave Ferguson full of praise.

"Juventus in 1999 will always be on the list of great performances away from home in Europe but this certainly ranks as one of them," Ferguson said.

"The players have confidence and trust in each other and they are peaking."

United produced a blistering display at the Veltins-Arena, bombarding the home side's goal only to see their goalkeeper Manuel Neuer make a series of sensational saves to keep the score goalless at half-time.

Neuer was finally beaten when Rooney set up Giggs to score, before Javier Hernandez teed up Rooney to double the lead and put United on the brink of the Champions League final at Wembley on 28 May.

Ferguson has witnessed many fine United displays away from home in Europe during his tenure, most notably the 3-2 win at Juventus in the semi-final second leg in 1999, after being 2-0 down, which booked their place in the final that year.

He added: "Overall I was delighted. It was a top performance. We have had some fantastic performances in Europe during my time and this was right up there.

"The concentration issue is important away from home in Europe. It is a different tempo at times and requires really good concentration. Credit to the players - they have shown that throughout the campaign.

"Over the past two or three years we have got a way of playing in Europe away from home. It requires some experience of course and the most important thing is to have confidence in possession of the ball."

Ferguson praised Giggs, who at the age of 37 is continuing to amaze his manager.

It is strange because Ryan's peak years seem to have lasted so long," Ferguson stated.

"You would think, at 37, he would be showing signs of waning. I don't see any evidence of that.

"We look after him in terms of rest before games but when he gets that freshness he doesn't show any sign of fatiguing at all. He is an amazing man."

Manchester United players took to Twitter after the match to revel in their impressive victory.

Skipper and central defender Rio Ferdinand posted: "Great result [shoulda scored a couple more] still got to produce a performance 2nd leg. Great stadium + our fans were loud+clear, thanks!"

And striker Rooney tweeted : "Thought we were class today hope u all enjoyed. Thx to everyone's good luck messages. Giggs. Wow. He's unreal."

However, French defender Patrice Evra warned against complacency and insisted that this semi-final is not yet over.

"In football you never know," the 29-year-old said. "I remember playing for Monaco in the 2004 quarter-final and we played in the Bernabeu against Real Madrid and lost 4-2.

"Real thought they were going into the semi-final. They thought they were there already. But in the second leg we won 3-1 and went through.

"We have to be as professional next week as we were last night and keep going.

"We have to win at Old Trafford. But I must say if we don't go through to the final now then it would be a disaster for Man United."

Ferguson reserved special praise for Neuer, a goalkeeper with whom he has been linked, but who is almost certainly going to join Bayern Munich in the summer when his Schalke contract runs out.

"We know he's going to Bayern, he was absolutely fantastic," the Scot commented. "That was one of the best performances from a goalie I've ever seen against us.

"Funnily enough I think it was when Javier scored his offside goal [in the 50th minute] that was decisive - suddenly the players thought they could actually score against this guy."

Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick refused to admit the tie was over going into the second leg, at Old Trafford on Wednesday, 4 May.

"We had imagined this game differently," reflected Rangnick. "We lacked the final pass today which we had against Inter Milan in the quarter-finals. We had to thank Neuer that we were not two or three goals down in the first half.

"But why should we capitulate? We need to do things differently and in football many things have happened.

"We have shown we can score away from home and we will try to get our chances in Manchester."

But Rangnick admitted that his side were second best in the first leg and added: "Manchester were on a different level than Inter Milan [in the quarter-finals]. We reached our limits.

"We will certainly need a wonder to progress. Our starting position now certainly points to Manchester having the advantage but in football you never know."

Source: bbc.co.uk

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