BRING ON BARCELONA

Ferguson claims there’s no reason to be scared of Spain’s all-conquering champions

MANCHESTER UTD (4)) vs SCHALKE (1)

Man Utd win 6-1 on aggregate

JUBILANT Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson insists there’s no reason to be scared of Champions League final opponents Barcelona after his side reached the European showpiece for the third time in four seasons following a crushing win over Schalke last night.

Holding a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, Ferguson gambled with his team selection against last season’s Bundesliga runners-up, opting to leave out key personnel with Sunday’s Premier League summit meeting against Chelsea in mind.

Defensive linchpins Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic played no part, while Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Ryan Giggs were also given an evening off.

Despite those high-profile absentees, United were far too strong for Ralf Rangnick’s overachievers as goals from Antonio Valencia, Darron Gibson and an Anderson brace capped a night of celebration for United, who will now meet their 2009 conquerors at Wembley later this month.

“I wish it was Brechin City or someone like that because at the start of the season, if you were looking at getting to the final, you’d think: ‘Steer clear of Barcelona,’” Ferguson said. “Their performances are there for everyone to see but we’ve done our job well, Wembley is a neutral ground and we’ll be well prepared.

“I don’t think we should be going there lacking confidence. Their form has been very good, we’re playing a fantastic team but there shouldn’t be a sense of terror. We can’t be frightened out of our skin. We’ve got to find a solution to playing against them.”

United never looked like giving up the opportunity to gain revenge over Barcelona with Schalke all but conceding this semi-final in Gelsenkirchen last week.

Valencia set the show on the road with a composed finish after 26 minutes and the supplier of that goal, Gibson, got his name on the scoresheet five minutes later with a crisp drive which Manuel Neuer ought to have repelled.

Juan Manuel Jurado’s even cleaner strike 10 minutes before the break only temporarily subdued the party atmosphere inside the Theater of Dreams.

And a largely uneventful second-half was illuminated late on by a couple of rare goals for Brazilian midfielder Anderson, who enjoyed a reputation enhancing evening in the United engine room.

Thinking ahead to Sunday’s potential title decider against Chelsea at Old Trafford, Ferguson then explained why he had left out all but two of the players who had played the first leg.

He said: “It wasn’t an easy decision but the Arsenal result forced the situation.

“If it had been a tight result in the first leg, we couldn’t have done it but the two goals gave us enough leeway.

“We’ll have a fresh team on Sunday and we’ll go for it.”