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Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he was proud of his players after watching a second string Manchester United side ease past Schalke and into the final of the Champions League.

Ferguson made nine changes from the team that defeated the German side 2-0 in the first leg and acknowledged he was slightly anxious before the game as to whether he was doing the right thing.

However, two goals from Anderson and further strikes from Antonio Valencia and Darron Gibson secured a 4-1 win and justified Ferguson’s decision to rest his big-name players ahead of the Premier League showdown with Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday.

“They did me proud,” he said of the team. “It was a semi-final and the fact it’s such an important game does create a bit of doubt in your mind of ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ but I’m glad we were vindicated.

“It’s fantastic for the club. We’re where we want to be. I’ve said many times we should have done better in Europe over the years and I think this team can win the cup.”

United will now face Barcelona in a repeat of the final of two years ago, but Ferguson believes United are now better equipped for the challenge of facing a team widely regarded as the best on the continent.

He said: “We were the favourites the last time and maybe we have a little more experience. But this year and last year Barcelona’s form has been brilliant. It should be a really good final. It should represent the history and traditions of both clubs.

“There is a different set of traditions with Real Madrid and Barcelona because of their tribalism and history. They have always been the two biggest clubs in Spain and the rivalry is intense.

“I don’t think we should be going there lacking in confidence. Their form has been very good this season and we will be playing a fantastic team. But they haven’t got a terror against us. We cannot be frightened out of our skin. We have got to find a solution to playing against them.”

Ferguson admitted he would be speaking to Jose Mourinho, whose Real Madrid side were defeated by Barcelona at the semi-final stage.

“I speak to him quite a lot,” said Ferguson. “Real are a different team from us for a start. It’s not as if we haven’t seen them before. I have watched them many times this season but we will take the information because Jose is very helpful that way.”

Ferguson will become only the third manager – after Miguel Munoz and Marcello Lippi – to lead a team into four European Cup finals, although he conceded that he would have preferred an easier opponent at Wembley.

“I wish it was Brechin City or someone like that,” he joked. “At the start of the season if you look at the final, you think steer clear of Barcelona because their performance is there for everyone to see. But we have done our job well and our away form has been terrific. Wembley is a neutral ground but I think we’ll be quite well prepared.”

Edwin van der Sar, whose last game for united will now be the final, also hailed United’s performance.

He told ITV1: “It was perfect, after the first leg we were quite well set up to be able to make changes and keep the majority of players fresh for the big game on Sunday.

“We saw how emotional Barcelona were yesterday and maybe our reaction was a bit more subdued but Barca’s was because they have a big rivalry (against Real Madrid).

“Barcelona play exceptionally good football and of course it’s going to be difficult, they showed that in the final in 2009. We have to show we learned the lesson from that one and be better prepared.”

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