Neuer masterclass ‘best I’ve seen’ says Ferguson
The Schalke keeper’s peformance against United showed Ferguson and Wenger what they’re missing
Manchester United might be halfway to Wembley after a 2-0 win in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Schalke - but the undisputed star of the show was the man in goal for the German side, Manuel Neuer.
The 25-year-old keeper produced a string of extraordinary saves in a match that United could, and should, have won by a much bigger margin.
For over an hour Alex Ferguson's men pummelled the German side only to see their attacks thwarted by Neuer. In the first half alone he made seven excellent saves, and carried on where he had left off in the second period. It was the kind of imposing performance that Peter Schmeichel in is heyday would have been proud of.
It was not until the fourth quarter of the match that United finally got the better of the brilliant German stopper. First Ryan Giggs and then Wayne Rooney somehow managed to steer the ball past Neuer's massive frame within two minutes of each other to hand the visitors the win.
Afterwards Alex Ferguson was impressed enough to seek out the goalkeeper as the teams left the pitch and shake his hand. He later said: "In my time at United, it is probably the finest display of goalkeeping I've ever seen against us."
That is high praise from a man who has been in charge of United for a quarter of a century and overseen almost 1,400 matches.
However, Neuer seemed unfazed. He responded in typically Germanic fashion: "Of course it's nice to hear things like that. But we have lost 2-0 and that irritates me very much."
But Neuer might not be the only one left irritated after the events of Tuesday night. Managers across Europe will also be feeling frustrated after seeing what the keeper is capable of. For Neuer is certain to leave Schalke at the end of the season and is said to be heading to Bayern Munich.
However, Ferguson may have had an ulterior motive in lavishing praise on the player. United are looking for a replacement for the retiring Edwin van der Sar and were linked to the Schalke keeper earlier in the season. If they were holding auditions for a replacement then Neuer couldn't have done any better. If anything is likely to get Ferguson to reach for his chequebook it would have been the sight of the giant keeper single-handedly holding his strikers at bay.
Another manager who has been linked to Neuer is Arsene Wenger, and one can only wonder what the Arsenal boss will be thinking about his bravura performance while he watches his own busted flush of keepers, Jens Lehmann, Manuel Almunia, Lukasz Fabianski and Wojcich Szczensny, go through their paces.