Sir Alex Ferguson will fly to Germany on Wednesday for his first spying mission on Schalke, the German club who will almost certainly be Manchester United's semi-final opponents in the Champions League despite having spent long spells of the current season struggling to get away from the Bundesliga's relegation-threatened teams.

Schalke are currently ninth, after a revival since Ralf Rangnick took over as manager last month, but Ferguson can have serious aspirations of reaching the fourth final of his time at Old Trafford.

"We've beaten a very, very good Chelsea side," the United manager said. "Chelsea played their part, and credit to them, but I thought we were the better side and deserved to win. We've hit our form. You saw that in the second half [in the 4-2 win] against West Ham, the performance at Chelsea last week and the performance tonight. This is a great moment for us."

Schalke beat Internazionale 5-2 in the first leg of their quarter-final at San Siro last week and it was pointed out to Ferguson that United did not have a particularly good record against German opposition, losing to Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen in previous semi-finals.

"Tell me about it," he said. "But we can make that change. We've got the momentum you need now and momentum's a great thing in football. Everyone wants to play and the bonus is that we are getting everyone fit now."

Ferguson, a close ally of Carlo Ancelotti, expressed his sympathy for the Chelsea manager, saying he was not surprised that Fernando Torres had started ahead of Didier Drogba. Yet Ferguson also admitted this had been his suspicion because of money not form. "A lot of people thought Drogba would play but I thought that, having spent the money they did on Torres, they had to play him [Torres]. I wasn't 100% certain but I couldn't see them leaving him out."

Ferguson went on to identify Torres's inability to get any success against Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic as one of the key features of the two legs. "Torres has played against us quite a few times and he had a little golden spell against us [for Liverpool] but, if you look at the number of games he's played against us, we've actually done all right against him.

"It's been made out he's terrorised us, and Vidic particularly, but it's not been like that. He's a good player but Vidic and Ferdinand, with their experience, should be able to handle the best players in the world because they're up there in that sphere themselves."

Again the question was asked about whether this team were capable of emulating the 1999 side by winning the treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup. "I keep being asked that ... you need a bit of luck but we have a semi-final [against Manchester City in the FA Cup] on Saturday and we have some great form right now."

Ferguson was asked about reports in Spain that a €20m (£18m) deal has been agreed for the Atlético Madrid goalkeeper David De Gea. "You know, on Italian television they're saying we've signed two players from Italy, so I'd place this with that. There's always speculation but I can't answer it. I think we were linked with 112 players one year."