United crush Schalke to reach Wembley

MANCHESTER - Manchester United will face Barcelona in a mouthwatering Champions League Final later this month after they fielded a second-string side and still handed Schalke 04 a 4-1 thrashing on Wednesday.

United reached their third European Cup final in four seasons thanks to a 6-1 aggregate demolition of the Germans with two second-half goals from Anderson after Antonio Valencia and Darron Gibson had already put the tie out of reach.

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Holding a 2-0 first-leg lead, United made nine changes for the match at Old Trafford to rest players for Sunday's Premier League game with Chelsea and the deputies notched the highest aggregate win ever seen at this stage of the competition.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said he expected a "fantastic final" against Barca on May 28 at Wembley where the two teams will be trying to lift their fourth European Cup at the stadium where they each won the trophy for the first time.

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"This is the best competition in the world, all the best teams are there. To get to the final is an achievement itself, but to win it is the ultimate," Ferguosn told Sky Sports.

Schalke, outclassed for long periods, did get a consolation goal through Jose Manuel Jurado after 35 minutes but the contest felt more like an exhibition match with the German side's coach Ralf Rangnick admitting they were out of their depth.

United's comfortable first-leg lead enabled Ferguson to give the likes of first-leg scorers Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs the night off as a group of players other clubs would be happy to have in their first team enjoyed the limelight.

"I think you have to trust them sometimes," Ferguson, who has now led United to four Champions League finals, said of his squad players. "It was not an easy decision to make, one I wrestled with for a few days."

The home crowd began chanting "We're going to Wem-ber-ley" midway through the first half when Gibson's inch-perfect long pass found Valencia who steered the ball past keeper Manuel Neuer and into the bottom left corner after 26 minutes.

The goal seemed to crush any lingering hope for the visitors and five minutes later they failed to deal with another United surge and only got the ball as far as Gibson who cracked a shot that slipped through the usually reliable Neuer's hands.

RED FLARES

Before the hosts could get too comfortable, though, they lost concentration when Chris Smalling gave a soft ball away in his own half allowing Schalke to mount a rare counter-attack that ended with Jurado's strike high into the net in the 35th.

The Schalke fans celebrated as if they were in the lead, lighting red flares high in the stands behind the goal, but the celebrations tu