UEFA Champions League Group A
FC Basel vs. Manchester United
Venue: St. Jakob Park
Date: Wednesday, 22 November 2017
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Manchester United’s quest to book their place into the Champions League knockout stage will be taken to the final matchday after a narrow defeat to FC Basel.
Michael Lang’s late winner, when only a point was enough for United to clinch top spot, was the difference between the two sides in Switzerland.
After striking the woodwork twice and dominating the first half, the fixture turned on its head for United who were up against it in the latter 45 minutes.
A defence-splitting pass from Paul Pogba found Romelu Lukaku but Tomas Vaclik denied the Belgian one-one-one, and in the follow-up, Marouane Fellaini’s header from Daley Blind’s cross was headed off the line by Manuel Akanji.
The latter two United players then combined once more as Blind’s whipped free-kick delivery from deep was headed wide by the forehead of Fellaini.
Chasing the loose ball before taking aim, Jesse Lingard’s shot deflected wide as Pogba curled a free-kick over the bar without troubling.
Equally off target with a free-kick that flew over was Dimitri Oberlin at the other end before Fellaini’s glancing header from Anthony Martial’s cross struck the post.
Ander Herrera’s excellent forward pass then found the racing Martial whose dinked effort was turned behind by Vaclik, and after the initial corner was cleared, the returning Marcos Rojo’s deflected attempt from distance struck the bar.
After the break, Lukaku headed over from another delightful Martial cross and Serey Die’s first time piledriver flew just wide for the hosts.
Centre-back Eder Balanta sliced a shot wide, Mohamed Elyounoussi’s strike was held and Sergio Romero did likewise from Renato Steffen after a promising Basel break.
Steffen then saw his shot hit Oberlin on the way through to Romero’s gloves before gliding inside onto his favoured left foot and curling just wide of the far post.
Aiming for goal, Pogba’s swing of his left foot saw a shot held before a frantic spell saw Lang’s header hit the bar and Elyounoussi’s follow-up thankfully held by the now busy Romero.
A last ditch tackle from Rojo then denied Oberlin in a nervy spell for the visitors only for substitute Marcus Rashford to strike the side netting in a moment of respite.
The influential Serey Die then forced Romero the make a flying save to turn the ball behind before being withdrawn.
Continuing his comeback from his long-term injury, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s half-volley was too high to test Vaclik.
Then came what has to be described as a deserved winner for Basel as Lang tapped in at the back post from Raoul Petretta’s low cross.
Ibrahimovic headed over in response but full-time ended United’s 100% record in the season’s competition.
There is still a point required to clinch qualification and top spot from the final group game against CSKA Moscow in two weeks time when such game may have seen Jose Mourinho rotate his squad.
Mourinho, however, refused to lay blame on his players and was surprisingly upbeat about the performance, particularly the first half showing.
“The first half was a perfect half without the goals.
“We lost because in the first half we should be 5-0 up but we could not score one goal after being so dominant.
“I cannot complain or blame the players.”
The Portuguese was also full of praise for Rojo, who came through the entire 90 minutes unscathed.
“Rojo played very well.
“He could be playing a couple of weeks ago. We didn’t need to rush him.
“He didn’t have to be physically demanding. He controlled very well his game so I’m really happy.”
Up next is the visit of Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday, with a 3pm kick-off welcoming the Seagulls to Old Trafford.
Chris Hughton’s team are unbeaten in five matches so United will have to up their game in order to end the newly-promoted side’s run of good form.
Manchester United: Romero; Darmian, Smalling, Rojo, Blind; Herrera, Fellaini, Pogba (Matic 66); Lingard (Rashford 64), Lukaku, Martial (Ibrahimovic 74).
Subs not used: Pereira, Lindelof, Shaw, McTominay,.
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Basel: Vaclik; Akanji, Suchy, Balanta; Lang, Serey Die (Fransson 80), Zuffi, Petretta; Steffen, Oberlin, Elyounoussi.
Subs not used: Salvi, Fransson, Ajeti, Riveros, Manzambi, Itten, Bua.
Manager: Raphael Wicky