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Basel 2 United 1: Champions League Exit Seals Europa League Fate

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Manchester United year upon year are normally guaranteed to at least reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League. However they won’t be doing that this season after slumping to a shock defeat to Swiss Champions Basel, which knows them out of the competition at the group stages for only the third time in 17 years.

Basel were meant to finish third in Group C behind United and Benfica, but the Swiss side have fought hard in the competition and now move onto the knockout round of the competition for the first time in their history.

The result came as even more of a surprise as United started the game well with Nani and Ashley Young looking good down their flanks. However football is never straightforward and on their first real attack Basel took the lead in very strange circumstances.

A cross from Fabian Frei wasn’t dealt with by Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic who collided whilst trying to knock the ball away from goal. Smalling immediately went down injured. Xherdan Shaqiri picked up on the loose ball on the right whipping it into the area right where Smalling would have been to clear it. David De Gea could only poke the ball clear to Marco Streller to volley the ball home in off the post.

After taking in the shock of conceding, United then fought back and should have gone into half-time level. Wayne Rooney has come under criticism in recent weeks for his goal-scoring slump and he failed to shut up his doubters by missing a glorious chance on the half-hour.

Somehow he managed to miss-kick an effort inside the six-yard box from a Nani cross on the half-hour with Park Ji-Sung failing to react quickly enough to diver the ball home much to the delight of Basel’s keeper Yann Sommer who held onto the loose ball.

Nani looked United’s most dangerous player before the interval and after Young flicked a half-chance over, was unlucky to see a chance from close-range blocked by Sommer two minutes before the break after good build-play involving Ryan Giggs, Rooney and Young. 

Worse though was to come for United as a minute before the break Vidic was stretchered off with a suspected knee ligament damage after twisting his knee after trying to win the ball of Streller. It was a poor way for the half to end for United who could well be without their inspirational captain for a number of months if the injury is a severe one.

With 45 minutes left to save their traditional European season, United came out after the break and immediately put Basel under pressure. The hosts despite being pegged back into their own half could have doubled their lead shortly after the restart but De Gea made amends for his error, making a fine save to trip Alexander Frei’s free-kick from 20 yards.

United then came close and could have been level on the hour. Good play by Park allowed Nani a chance to whip a ball into the area. The ball intended for Rooney was hooked clumsily against his own woodwork by Markus Steinhofer with the ball failing to fall to Young or the England striker on the rebound with Basel somehow getting the ball clear. 

Rooney was in the thick of the action and after heading over after drifting offside from a Smalling cross, narrowly curled a shot wide of Sommer’s far post after good work by Giggs. With six minutes to go Basel doubled their lead and sealed United’s exit from the competition when Shaqiri’s cross from the left picked out Alexander Frei who had drifted in past Smalling to head home past De Gea.

Frei’s strike ensured United needed to score twice in six minutes to stay in the competition and although they did reduce the deficit through Phil Jones after Federico Macheda’s strike came back off the wood work, it was too prove too big a mountain to climb.

United will now continue their European campaign in the Europa League where they will be one of the favourites to win. That will come as no comfort to Sir Alex Ferguson who alike many of United’s fans would hardly have dreamed about his side competing in the competition which no European giant really wants to win. 

United: De Gea, Evra, Vidic (Evans), Ferdinand, Smalling, Nani, Giggs, Jones, Park (Macheda), Young (Welbeck), Rooney.

Star Man

Whilst Nani showed glimpses of his best-form in the first half, not one United player really put their hand up and spurred the team. Dissapointingly Wayne Rooney failed to trouble Basel’s defence whose Austrian defender Aleksander Dragovic was oustanding at the back looking composed throughout. The 20-year-old might well have made played himself into a big move away from Basel, given the quality of his performance tonight.

By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87