United crash out after falty night in Basel; FC Basel 2 Manchester United 1
In what has been a somewhat lack lustre season for United in the champions league so far, the reds travelled to face Swiss side Basle in the finale of what had proved to be a troublesome group C. With United needing only a point to qualify, albeit against determined opposition, there was a feeling that things would be alright on the night for the reds, with a full strength line up including Ryan Giggs and Phil Jones in the centre of midfield. Basel welcomed back star man Shaqiri to their midfield, who had previously missed the game at Old Trafford earlier in the campaign, as the Swiss side looked to spring an unlikely upset.
United started brightly, dominating the ball on a bog of a pitch, with Nani stampeding down the right hand side with every available opportunity and looking threatening. Many times during this European campaign however, United have been guilty of almost comical defensive lapses, and the curse struck again on 10 minutes, as a low cross from the left was feebily diverted back out into the area by David De Gea, allowing Marco Streller to volley the home side into the lead. Despite going a goal behind, United didn’t let nerves get the better of them and continued to dominate the game as they had in the opening exchanges, albeit without threatening the Basel goal with enough regularity. On a deteriorating pitch which was not conducive to United’s style of football chances were at a premium, Nani however single handedly manufactured a glorious opportunity on the half hour mark, with his low cross finding Rooney with an empty goal before him, but the England front man totally miscued his strike squandering the reds best opportunity of the half.
To add further misery to what was a dire half for United, Nemanja Vidic was stretchered off on the brink of half time having gone over awkwardly on his right knee, an injury which has reportedly subsequently ruled the reds skipper out for the remainder of the season. Despite being very down, United were far from out, with only a solitary goal being enough to scrape through to the knock out stages and avoid elimination. With it all to do in the second half, United struggled to get the momentum they had in the first half going again, and were thankful to De Gea for keeping them in the game, with a magnificent diving save from Alex Frei’s free kick. At the other end, Basel did their best to gift United a life line back into the game, as Nani’s dangerous cross was volleyed against the cross bar by Basel’s Markus Steinhöfer, symptomatic of the reds lack of good fortune to date. With United beginning to look weary, Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck were thrown on in an attempt to snatch what looked a very unlikely point. However, with only 10 minutes left on the clock, disaster struck, as the constantly threatening Shaqiri whipped over a perfect cross to Frei, who ghosted in unnoticed by Smalling to nod United all but out of the competition.
With the reds staring elimination in the face, they rallied for one last assault, and secured an unlikely life line back into the game with 2 minutes of normal time remaining, Phil Jones nodding home a goal mouth scramble, his header fractionally crossing the goal line. It was not meant to be however, as United succumbed to a costly and embarrassing defeat, sending them reeling into the dreaded Europa League and ending any hopes of reaching a 2nd consecutive European cup final.
De Gea – 5 Culpable for first goal, saved well from Frei’s free kick.
Smalling – 4 Collided with Vidic for 1st goal, fell asleep for 2nd.
Vidic – 5 Solid performance until untimely injury.
Ferdinand – 5 Marshalled Streller well for majority of game.
Evra – 6 Attacked well.
Nani – 7 MOTM United’s only potent threat on the night.
Jones – 6 Performed well in difficult circumstances.
Giggs – 5 Inconsistent, but provided few moments of telling quality.
Young – 4 Failed to make any impression.
Park – 6 Constantly moving and some neat touches.
Rooney – 4 Dire night all round.
Evans – 5 Deputised for Vidic well.
Welbeck – 6 Provided extra impetus to attack.
Macheda – 3 Missed sitter before United’s goal, some woeful touches.