Inexperience could help us -- Rangnick
Schalke manager Ralf Rangnick knows many of his players may never have another chance to reach a Champions League final, but believes their inexperience in the latter stages of the competition may work to their advantage.
Rangnick, who took charge at the Veltins-Arena only six weeks ago, is well aware that the chasm in pedigree between his team -- who are in their first Champions League semi-final -- and Manchester United, who are in their 12th, makes them underdogs.
But the 52-year-old has urged his players to make the most of their youthful exuberance.
"For everyone at Schalke this is an absolutely great game," Rangnick said. "I do not know how many of our players will have a chance to play in a game like this again."
He added that the difference in experience between the teams "maybe makes it more exciting for our team. The fact that we have an inexperienced team and a lot of these players are in this situation for the first time -- apart from Raul, who might be in this situation for the last time -- we have to show what we can achieve with enthusiasm and passion.
"Alex Ferguson has more experience (than me) and he has won many more trophies. They have a very experienced team and I would say that on average it is three or four years older than our team.
"But maybe being a little bit inexperienced means we're a hungry team and have passion. You saw that in the way we played against Inter Milan, so hopefully that will be a benefit for us."
Rangnick, in his second spell in Gelsenkirchen, has forged a reputation throughout his career for producing explosive, attacking sides, a trait seen in that quarter-final victory against the European champions. Schalke attacked from the off at the San Siro, their relentless pressure clinching a 5-2 win, and then repeated the tactic in Germany to complete a 7-3 aggregate victory.
Most famous for taking village side Hoffenheim to the heady heights of the Bundesliga and known as 'The Football Professor', Rangnick has promised not to compromise his beliefs for his first ever European semi-final. He does not expect, though, a repeat of the excitement which swept Inter aside.
"It will be a tight result and we just hope that we're still in a position to reach the final when we play the second leg in Manchester," he said. "I am convinced it will be tight up to the end."
Rangnick is keenly aware of United's defensive resilience -- the Premier League leaders have yet to concede away from home in this competition this season -- and, for all his deferential talk of containing the visitors' potent attacking threats, he will know that Schalke must change that statistic if they are to have any hope of progression.
To do so, they will have to overcome a player who sums up the difference in experience between the two sides. Edwin van der Sar stands on the cusp of his fifth Champions League final, having featured in the 1995 and 1996 editions for Ajax and in 2008 and 2009 for United. Should he help his team to Wembley, it would be a fitting way to draw a curtain on his career. (© Daily Telegraph, London)