United resumed their Champions League campaign with the visit of Swiss side FC Basel to Old Trafford in the second group game of the competition. Having previously only managed a draw away to Benfica, United were looking to get their campaign up and running with a victory, and let out some frustration having suffered a disappointing draw on the weekend against Stoke. Injuries throughout the squad meant the United side more or less picked itself, with both Rooney and Javier Hernandez out, Danny Welbeck partnered Ryan Giggs up front with Dimitar Berbatov overlooked again.
With the United faithful expectant of a result against a relatively unknown quantity in the form of Basel, the reds made an unconvincing start, with the away side threatening on several occasions to break the deadlock. Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones appeared to be having communication issues as the Swiss side’s front two of Streller and Frei caused all sorts of problems in the opening exchanges. United were then thankful on 15 minutes to Danny Welbeck, who fired the reds into an undeserved lead after Giggs’s cool lay off to the England front man, who made no mistake from 12 yards out, sending the ball into the bottom corner. And things got better for United merely moments later, as again the combination of Giggs and Welbeck combined to deadly effect, as the Welsh midfielder found an inch perfect pass to Welbeck, who slotted home his second of the night with a low right footed drive, and seemingly put United out of sight.
Despite having a commanding lead, United were still failing to dominate the game as Fergie would have expected, with Basel constantly proving threatening on the break, with Frei and then Zoua criminally wasting some glorious chances for the away side, whose travelling support remained in good voice despite the obvious adversity their side found themselves in. On paper, 2-0 to United seemed a fairly conclusive half time scoreline, the reality however was that there was still plenty of life left in the Swiss side, and great drama was to unfold in the second 45 minutes.
United were again handed another early warning straight after half time, as Streller found himself through on goal against De Gea, only to be thwarted by the outstretched leg of the young Spaniard. United’s respite was short lived however, and Basel got themselves deservedly back into the contest on the 58 minute mark, as Fabien Frei smashed home De Gea’s save from Streller’s header at the near post, giving the visitors a vital lifeline. Similar to United in the first half, Basel capitalised on their momentum and soon equalised 2 minutes later, as Streller’s inch perfect cross evaded Ferdinand, and found the head of Frei who nodded past an isolated De Gea. Having been given such a stunning wake up call, United began to finally play for the first time in the half, however, just as the reds appeared to be regaining control of the game which had so dramatically slipped from them, disaster struck as Basel were awarded a penalty for a seemingly innocuous challenge from Antonio Valencia on Streller. Alex Frei stepped up and completed the Basel comeback with a well struck penalty, leaving United’s position in the group very precarious with only 15 minutes to make amends.
United surged forward in the final 10 minutes desperately looking for a way back into the game, as Basel began to recede into their shells with the prospect of a historic victory in sight. However, in true United fashion, the equaliser came in stoppage time, as Nani’s excellent cross in was met by the head of Ashley Young, who nodded in at the near post, granting United salvation. An epic contest nearly had further drama, as seconds later, Nani’s cross in was met by Welbeck, who’s header this time went agonizingly wide with only 2 minutes stoppage time left on the clock. There was time yet for one last chance for United, and as the ball fell to Dimitar Berbatov in the penalty box, the Bulgarian had only to pull the ball across goal to Nani in acres of space, but unbelievably he hammered his shot into the side netting, ending United’s chance of what would have been a remarkable victory.
De Gea – 7 Some excellent saves, not at fault for either goal.
Fabio – 6 Excellent going forward, totally lost defensively.
Ferdinand – 5 Very poor performance.
Jones – 6 Needed better guidance from Ferdinand, worst performance so far for United though.
Evra – 5 After 2 good performances from Paddy, a shocker.
Valencia – 7 Efficient whilst a little too predictable.
Carrick – 6 Good on the ball, should have protected back four better.
Anderson – 6 Passing radar still slightly off.
Young – 7 Vital last gasp goal and constant threat down the left.
Giggs – 7 Superb assists, baffling as to why he came off so early.
Welbeck – MOTM 8 Faded slightly 2nd half, but two superb finishes and all round performance.
Nani – 7 Instant impact with assist and goal threat.
Park – 5 Careless in possession.
Berbatov – 5 Wasted glorious chance to win the game.