By Martin Lipton
A mauling, a battering, a monstering.
And just imagine what the United first team would have done to them if they’d been given a chance.
Last night there was no dramatic tension, no real nerves, never, in truth, even a moment of doubt.
Semi-finals of the Champions League are not supposed to be this easy, not supposed to be a cakewalk for a reserve-strength side.
It meant it was not a triumph, by any means, not an evening of epic glory as when they came back from the dead in Turin in 1999 or somehow withstood the constant pressure of Barcelona in 2008.
But that was only because it was so, so comfortable, from start to finish.
Yet Sir Alex Ferguson’s faith in the strength of his squad was repaid with 90 minutes of clinical efficiency, no injuries and no suspensions either, as the Scot celebrated reaching his sixth European Final, the chance to join Bob Paisley as only the second manager to win the biggest prize in club football three times and the opportunity to gain vengeance for Rome.
Fergie did not need to turn to Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs or Javier Hernandez on the bench, never even considered whether he might have erred in leaving Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand in the stands.
Two in five minutes mid-way through the first half, first from Antonio Valencia and then, courtesy of an almighty howler by Manuel Neuer, Darron Gibson was repeated after the break with a simple Anderson double, underlining the sheer scale of the divide between these two mis-matched opponents.
Now history beckons the Scot, a man who, unlike Jose Mourinho, recognises he merely has a place in the fabric of the game, rather than having to be THE story.
Last night, there was no story, only a confirmation of what Europe had witnessed in the Veltins Arena a week ago.
Quite simply, Schalke were as poor a team as can ever have reached this stage, far worse than Deportivo La Coruna in 2004.
And where United had the chances to bury them in Gelsenkirchen, this time Neuer was human, Schalke were no better – and United, even this United, picked them off at will.
Gibson, infamously, was hounded out of Twitter by abusive fans last week but had the Irishman stayed on the social network, he would surely have added a fair few followers.
It was Gibson’s perfect, precise and weighted pass – had it been Andres Iniesta, the tributes would still be being paid this morning – after carelessness by Japanese Atsuto Uchida – that was calmly slotted past Neuer by Valencia after 26 subdued minutes.
United had been tapping on the door to that point, even though Dimitar Berbatov – who has not scored in the Champions League since October 2008 – was popping up in dangerous positions.
But given the advantage, United started knocking it down and even if Neuer should have stopped Gibson’s 18-yard drive, rather than shovelling it against the post and over the line – when Anderson and Valencia combined, the writing was already on the wall.
Briefly, as Jose Manuel Jurado took advantage of an unkind bounce off Jonny Evans to rifle home, Schalke might have entertained thoughts of something realistically infeasible.
Yet only a goalline clearance by Benedikt Howedes prevented Valencia claiming his second of the night before the interval.
And after the break, while Raul toiled for the Germans, there was only one side in it.
Neuer rediscovered his first leg form with a thrilling dive to his left to claw away Anderson’s first strike of the night and Chris Smalling, again ably deputising for Ferdinand, was denied by a flag.
United, though, finally restored their advantage as Anderson span 10 yards out, from Nani’s pull back, to force a low drive through Neuer’s grasp.
And soon afterwards the Brazilian had an even easier task to pass into the gaping net when Berbatov turned provider.
There was even a chance for Fergie to give Darren Fletcher – who will be as important at Wembley as he will be against Chelsea on Sunday – his first run-out in two months, while Michael Owen was thwarted by Neuer in stoppage time.
Not that it was more than the final punctuation mark.
Four games left. Four games from glory, domestically and in Europe. Four games from Fergie’s greatest triumph.
The Scot knows that history, destiny, beckons. He will need his first team to achieve it. They are ready for the task.