Premier League giants Manchester United were left embarrassed on Wednesday night as they were handed a disappointing 1-0 defeat by relative minnows FC Basel at St Jakob Park thanks to a late goal by Swiss centre-back Michael Lang.
Manchester United were simply impotent in front of goal, with nearly 73% of their shots going wide, drawing the ire of the club’s fans across the globe. Even club legend Rio Ferdinand had made clear in no uncertain terms that the Reds failed to deliver.
“You wouldn’t really associate [the performance] with a Jose Mourinho team – and that’s lacking professionalism,” Ferdinand commented after the match.
“They lacked that discipline,” the former United player said, who added, “It just wasn’t good enough.”
For Basel fans, seeing their side win against such a legendary club is simply phenomenal, and would’ve definitely brought back memories of 2011, when, yet again in their hallowed grounds of St. Jakob Park, they defeated Manchester United and sent the 20-time English Champions out of the Champions League.
It was on the eighth of December, 2011. Manchester United have only won two of their previous five games in the group stages, having drawn the other three. They had nine points on the board in second place, while Basel had eight in third. Whoever would win the final game progresses to the knock-out stages of the elite European tournament. Everyone in the United ranks were understandably on heightened focus.
“[My] players have been involved in finals, semi-finals, quarter-finals and big games in the Premier League, so we have the experience of playing in big games all of the time. Tomorrow is exactly the same situation: it’s a big game,” Then manager Sir Alex Ferguson said in the pre-match press conference.
“[Concentration] is important in matches like tomorrow. We need focus,” the legendary Scottish tactician added.
Come matchday, however, things did not start according to plan for United. Iconic Swiss footballer Marco Streller opened the scoring on the ninth minute, catching the ball on the rebound after goalkeeper David de Gea managed to save an attempt from pacey winger Xherdan Shaqiri, who was still wearing Basel colours back in 2011.
A couple of minutes later, Portuguese wide man Nani tried to best then Basel keeper Yann Sommer, but the man between the sticks had solid hands to save Nani’s attempt on goal. Wayne Rooney also had a shot on target, but Sommer pulled off a magnificent save.
Come the second half, United upped their game with magnificent attempts at goal but failed to score. Instead, it would be Basel who would find their second goal of the game at the 84th minute, after Alexander Frei headed in Shaqiri’s accurate cross to send the ball to the back of the net.
And while aggressive defender Phil Jones would claw one back at the 89th minute for United, it was simply too little too late and the Reds would end up losing the game 2-1, which meant they crash out of the group stages of the Champions League – the first time they have done so in a decade.
Back to today, Manchester United are still at the top of Group A in the Champions League with 12 points earned from five games. They are three points clear of second-placed Basel, who have nine points on board.
At this point, Manchester United’s final game against CSKA Moscow on 6th December becomes all the more crucial. Should United lose their game and Basel win their final match against Benfica, then Basel may well once again give all the Red Devils fans around the world some serious heartaches.