Champions League - Stunned United crash out after defeat at Basel
Wed, 07 Dec 21:51:00 2011
Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League with a 2-1 defeat against Basel at Sankt Jakob-Park in Group C.
Phil Jones's late goal gave United a glimmer of hope, but there would be no dramatic comeback this time for Sir Alex Ferguson's team - who failed to reach the last 16 for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
United dominated in Switzerland, but failed to breach the Basel rearguard action until it was too late. As a result last year's finalists now find themselves in the Europa League.
United started brightly and had the first meaningful attempt on goal when Park Ji-Sung swivelled to shoot over on four minutes.
The visitors were dominating possession and setting the tempo, but they were rocked soon after when Basel took an unlikely lead.
The elusive Xherdan Shaqiri was the creator, sending over a teasing cross from the left that David De Gea could only toe into the path of Streller. The striker adjusted his body and volleyed first-time past the United goalkeeper to put the Swiss side ahead.
Basel's goal came nine minutes in, and for the remainder of the half United continued their dominance. Nani and Ashley Young saw plenty of the ball on the flanks and the visitors poured all over their opponents.
On the half-hour mark United missed a glorious chance to level. Nani's cross from the right gave Wayne Rooney a tap-in from two yards, but the striker somehow miscued and Park failed to latch onto the rebound.
Five minutes later Rooney had another chance, and this time produced a sharp finish after being played in by Ryan Giggs. But his shot was straight at Yann Sommer in the Basel goal. Another opportunity went begging soon after, when Park Joo Ho slid in to deny Nani with a last-ditch block.
A frustrating 45 minutes ended with another blow for United, when Vidic was forced off with a knee injury.
Basel began the second period with far more purpose, and gradually began to enjoy some possession of their own. Meanwhile, United were reduced to mostly speculative efforts from distance.
On 54 minutes Basel gave United a scare when Alexander Frei's curling free-kick drew a diving save from De Gea.
Soon after United came within inches of a bizarre equaliser. Nani's cross was met by Marcus Steinhofer, who volleyed against the underside of his own bar and was left mightily relieved at his good fortune as the ball bounced clear.
As United poured forward in ever greater numbers, so the holes began to appear in their defence, and Basel took full advantage on 84 minutes. It was that man Shaqiri who once again played provider, picking out Frei at the back post for a simple header into an empty net.
The goal put the game beyond United, but Ferguson's team mustered a late flourish when Jones headed through a melee of players on 89 minutes to deliver a frantic conclusion.
But it was too little, too late for United, who will now join neighbours Manchester City in the draw for the next round of the Europa League.
1207 itw Ferdinand