Red Devils stunned by Basel
Manchester United have missed out on the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in six seasons after losing 2-1 to Basel.
Last Updated: 07/12/11 10:50pm
Manchester United have missed out on the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in six seasons after losing 2-1 to Basel at St Jakob Park.
Alexander Frei was the match-winner with an 85th-minute header after Marco Streller gave the home side a ninth-minute lead, although Phil Jones did net an injury-time consolation.
The Red Devils made the brighter start to the contest, but fell behind when Marco Streller converted Xherdan Shaqiri's drilled left-wing cross at the back post.
The visitors were effectively down to 10 men when the ball found the back of David de Gea's net as Chris Smalling was on the turf after being caught by Nemanja Vidic's elbow attempting to clear the danger.
Wayne Rooney missed a gilt-edged chance with 30 minutes played when he mis-hit Nani's teasing right-wing cross from close range, while Park Ji-sung saw his follow-up smothered by Basel goalkeeper Yann Sommer.
United suffered another blow when defender Vidic was stretchered off with a knee injury while Rooney could only find Sommer from Ryan Giggs' neat inside ball.
The visitors came within a whisker of equalising after the interval when right-back Markus Steinhoefer diverted Nani's cross onto the underside of his own crossbar leaving Sommer rooted to the spot.
United hopes of progressing were dealt a devastating blow in the closing stages when Frei converted Shaqiri's cross, although the visitors did manage to pull one back from Jones' header.
Although Ferguson's troops had started well, United suffered an early hammer blow the Scottish tactician cannot have expected.
A penalty area collision between Vidic and Smalling offered Shaqiri the opportunity to collect a loose ball and drive a long way down the by-line before drilling a cross across the visitors' goal.
It was not an easy moment for De Gea. But the young Spaniard might have chosen a better option than to lunge at the ball with his feet, succeeding only in turning it to Streller, whose first-time shot bounced in.
For a good while afterwards United struggled to find an answer to Basel's blanket defence, an ominous sign in itself given the essential need for a goal.
Nani was their best hope, daring opposition defenders to lunge in before escaping their presence with a burst of acceleration.
He must have thought it had done the trick when he sent a low cross to the far post that appeared to set Rooney up with a tap-in at the far-post. Inexplicably, the striker failed to make proper contact.
Park could not react quickly enough either and Sommer snuffed out the danger.
Sommer denied Nani and Ashley Young as the pressure began to mount, with Jones having a shot blocked too.
But the second shattering moment of the half came in the final minute when Vidic and Streller chased down possession, got their legs tangled up and hit the deck.
The Serbian immediately called for assistance and medical staff wasted no time stretchering him down the tunnel, triggering the introduction of Jonny Evans and much half-time soul-searching within the visitors' ranks.
Rooney was presented with yet another opportunity four minutes after the restart when Giggs sent him clean through.
The angle was not great but, after opening his body to make room for the curling shot to the far corner, the effort sailed wide.
Even for a team of United's stature, hauling themselves back from two goals down would have been virtually impossible, so De Gea's brilliant fingertip save to turn over Alexander Frei's goalbound free-kick was priceless.
And the visitors so nearly benefited from an outrageous slice of good fortune when, in attempting to hack Nani's cross clear at the far post, Steinhofer succeeded only in rattling the crossbar.
It was one of those moments when fans start to wonder whether this is going to be their night. Rooney heading Nani's cross over from close range was another although, as the striker was offside anyway, it did not matter.
United plugged away for a bit longer but it seemed the life had gone out of their challenge as Frei finished from close range.Typically the visitors rallied, scoring through Jones, but it was not enough.
|Basel||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|5||Shots on Target||6|
|4||Shots off Target||10|
|42.7||1st Half Poss.||57.3|
|45.3||2nd Half Poss.||54.7|