I will be the first to admit that United in Europe this season have been insipid and uninspiring at best. Losing in Basel was not the cause of United suffering the ignonimity of having to play in Europe’s second competition, the seeds were sown in each game before that. We were overrun by Benfica and outplayed by Basel, and even two routine wins against a Romanian side that no one had heard of previously was not enough to see us through. And here we are, “Thursday nights, Channel Five” as we have so gleefully reminded our scouse and City counterparts in recent seasons. All of our chickens come home to roost? Maybe. Time to take it on the chin lads.
Anyway, the third away trip in our Champions League group stage took us to Basel in Switzerland. The first two things I learnt are that it’s really cold in Basel, and it’s expensive. And when I say it’s expensive I mean it’s very, very expensive. How expensive? Around £25 for a pizza and upwards of £6 per beer, so that expensive! Upon our arrival in Basel we shunned the nearest Irish bar that many of the travelling reds headed to and instead decided we would get a train into Germany for a few hours, 20 minutes later and we step off the train in a small town just over the border called Lorrach. It was quite a small town and after a short while trying to track down a Bierkeller or the like we happened upon a small pub that was decked out inside in as much Bayern Munich memorabilia as you would expect outside of Munich. Varying tables were reserved around the big screen in anticipation for Bayern’s game that evening against City. We guessed that Lorrach was not a massive tourist hotspot as there was very little english spoken, luckily my GCSE in German came in handy when recalling the translation for “three beers please” and that largely got us by for the duration as we holed up amongst the Bayern gnomes, flags, and foam hands and made the pub ours for the afternoon.
We took the train back to Basel and headed to the Christmas Markets. We boarded a carousel bar to get our first Swiss pint and whilst the revolving bar was a little disorientating it did nothing to distract us from the £6 per beer we had been charged! We explored little more of the markets and moved on into the night to find the nearest bar…getting soaked right through in the rain in the process. A few more wallet busting beers and the aforementioned pizza before we decided to heard to St Jakob Park and the game that would decide the rest of our European campaign.
We did not have the best view of the game as we crammed ourselves into the back of the lower tier, to be fair not having a clear view our Champions League demise is not something that will bother us too much. We tried to keep our spirits up in the second half by keeping a song going to cheer ourselves up and also to warm ourselves up a little. But to no avail as the game ends and the worst possible scenario is suddenly plunged upon us. We file out of the stadium under a cloud of disappointment. Varying debates ensure as we make our way back to the coaches, some viable, some absolutely clueless. Someone tries to counter my disappointment with the point “at least City have gone out” but I don’t share that sentiment. I don’t care what the blue half of Manchester have done, I care what United have done and we’ve just limped out of Europe’s premier competition. Closer to Barcelona? I don’t think so.