Sir Alex Ferguson's men crash out of Europe's elite competition at the group stage for the first time since 2005 as the Swiss champions saw them off with a battling performance
The result sees United crash out of Europe's premier club competition at the group stage for the first time since 2005, and Basel equal their best performance in the tournament since 2003.
Furthermore, United's long term prospects suffered a further blow with the first-half loss of captain Nemanja Vidic to what appears to be a serious knee injury.
With his side needing a win to reach the knockout stages, Basel boss Heiko Vogel fielded an attacking line-up, with top scorer Alex Frei partnering captain Marco Streller up front and talented young duo Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabian Frei hoping to provide ammunition from the flanks.
Armed with the knowledge a draw would be enough to secure United’s progression, boss Sir Alex Ferguson selected a three-man midfield of Ryan Giggs, Phil Jones and Park Ji-Sung, while Ashley Young and Nani were charged with the task of supporting Wayne Rooney, who ploughed a lone furrow in attack.
United began with intent, and their extra man in the middle enabled them to dominate the opening exchanges. Basel, though, defended doggedly and in numbers, and the best chance the visitors mustered was a rushed effort from Park which curled comfortably over the bar.
Having weathered the early storm, the Swiss champions then began to gain a foothold, and quickly broke the deadlock with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
A series of dangerous crosses from Shaqiri had already caused uncertainty in the United defence when the young winger’s low driven effort from the left was met with an unconvincing attempted clearance from David de Gea, Streller gleefully half-volleyed the ball home through the legs of Patrice Evra to give his side the lead.
Streller’s fourth goal in as many games buoyed the hosts and stung United, who immediately set about trying to pick their way through the massed Basel defence.
Their strategy of attempting to find Rooney with crosses from Nani and Young initially seemed misguided against the hosts’ physically imposing defenders, but it almost yielded an equaliser on the half-hour mark.
A lightning United counter gave Nani possession on the right, and the Portuguese winger’s pinpoint cross seemed destined to result in a goal. Rooney, however, failed to make any real contact from just yards out and Park’s scuffed rebound was gathered gratefully by Basel keeper Yann Sommer.
United, galvanised rather than dismayed by spurning a glorious chance, pushed on until the interval. Giggs’ clever reverse pass allowed Rooney to test Sommer, and moments later the young shot stopper had to be alert again to deny Nani from point-blank range.
Basel, though, survived the siege until the break, and United suffered a further blow when captain Nemanja Vidic had to be stretchered off having badly twisted his knee in a tussle with Streller.
The second half began as the first had ended, with United pouring forward and Basel sitting deep. Ferguson’s men signaled their intent when Rooney, sent racing through by another superb Giggs pass, unleashed a fierce curler which flew just wide with Sommer beaten.
As if struck by the slender nature of their lead, the hosts rallied, looking to kill the game off. Shaqiri had De Gea worried with a curling effort from the edge of the box before Alexander Frei’s sweetly struck free kick forced a flying stop from the Spaniard.
Moments later the Swiss champions went even closer to a goal, but at the wrong end. Another teasing Nani cross caused Markus Steinhofer to crash an attempted clearance off his own crossbar, causing a desperate scramble in the penalty area before the ball was finally cleared.
Barring any further stroke of fortune, United’s main hope of salvation appeared to lie with the livewire duo of Rooney and Nani.
The Englishman unsettled the hosts’ defence whenever he drifted in from the left, while the Portuguese’s trickery and slick combinations with the overlapping Chris Smalling remained a potent threat.
But wave after wave of United attacks broke down against the massed ranks of Basel defenders on the edge of their own penalty area, and a trademark late comeback looked less likely with every passing minute.
The task got even harder with six minutes left, when Smalling naively let Shaqiri’s in-swinging cross run across his body, and Alexander Frei stole in to double the hosts’ lead.
Hope, however, almost immediately followed, when Sommer saved from Welbeck and substitute Federico Macheda smashed against the crossbar before Jones bundled a header just over the line.
United threw everyone forward in a desperate search for an equaliser, but Basel held on to secure a famous victory.
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