Michael Lang scored the only goal as FC Basel shocked Manchester United in Group A of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night. The 1-0 defeat at St. Jakob-Park means United will have to wait to qualify for the last 16.
United failed to impress on a night when they lacked ingenuity in attacking areas, even though playmaker Paul Pogba and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic—who entered late—both featured.
United boss Jose Mourinho mixed up his starting XI, swapping Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata for Jesse Lingard and Marouane Fellaini. He again left Henrikh Mkhitaryan out of the squad altogether after he also missed the 4-1 win over Newcastle United in the Premier League on Saturday:
Manchester United @ManUtd
The team news is in! Here's your #MUFC starting XI for tonight's #UCL fixture... https://t.co/hzisplp3fN2017-11-22 18:38:22
Basel picked a familiar lineup featuring Dimitri Oberlin leading the line up front:
FC Basel 1893 @FC_Basel
Unsere Aufstellung gegen @ManUtd! #UCL #zämmestark #FCBasel1893 #MUFC https://t.co/mGWotzGSLR2017-11-22 18:50:49
United struggled to create meaningful chances during what was a fairly sluggish opening half. In fact, the visitors came closest through an unlikely route when centre-back Marcos Rojo's long-range shot deflected off a head and hit the bar a minute before the break.
Before then, Jamie Jackson of the Guardian commented on the less than enthralling spectacle:
jamie jackson @JamieJackson___
Kind of soporific start...2017-11-22 20:04:19
United struggled to improve things despite some moments of brilliance from Pogba. The Frenchman glided through midfield looking for the passes to unlock Basel's defence.
When he was in the right place, Lukaku was often caught on his heels. He was slow to react to a good header down by Fellaini in the area. He strangely hadn't anticipated Fellaini, who is terrific in the air, would beat the defender to the ball.
In fairness to Lukaku, he was far from the only United attacker who was struggling. Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News highlighted how Lingard's movement was denying the visitors the width they needed:
Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst
Jesse Lingard reiterating United's right wing issues with his positioning. Moving infield, which is understandable given he's at his best there. #mufc definitely need to sign a specialist winger next year.2017-11-22 20:08:26
Basel went close a few minutes into the second half when two players came within inches of meeting a teasing cross from Renato Steffen. The hosts continued to press, and Serey Die whistled a shot past the post moments later.
Oberlin almost lucked his way into a goal on 63 minutes when a shot from Steffen clipped off his heel and had United goalkeeper Sergio Romero scrambling. Moments later, the increasingly impressive Steffen arrowed a cross-shot just beyond the far post with Romero beaten.
Mourinho needed to change things and introduced Marcus Rashford for Jesse Lingard and Nemanja Matic for Pogba.
Basel continued to go close, though, with Lang crashing a header off the bar. Oberlin should have scored on 72 minutes but scuffed his finish, allowing Marcos Rojo to scramble clear.
The near miss was Mourinho's cue to introduce Ibrahimovic off the bench in place of Anthony Martial. In the process, Ibrahimovic made a piece of Champions League history, per OptaJohan:
7 - Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the first player to play for seven different clubs in the Champions League. Journey.2017-11-22 21:29:26
Meanwhile, BBC 5 live Sport's Danny Mills lamented United's showing in the second half:
BBC 5 live Sport @5liveSport
#MUFC are heading through as things stand. But they've not convinced in the 2nd half, according to Danny Mills. Basel 0-0 #MUFC #BASMUN https://t.co/p9TCcWaAQD2017-11-22 21:16:03
By contrast, Basel finally got the goal they deserved less than two minutes from time when Lang got his toe to a low cross. It meant Mourinho's woes in Switzerland continued, per WhoScored.com:
Jose Mourinho: Has lost three of his four meetings with FC Basel #UCL https://t.co/i9yZ4dzZmJ2017-11-22 21:37:11
United should still qualify despite the setback. Mourinho's men have 12 points in the bank and need to at least draw in a home fixture against CSKA Moscow on Dec. 5 to finish their group campaign.
Even so, the Red Devils' limp display in Basel, particularly during the second half, will have raised some concerns. A squad expensively assembled by Mourinho should be expected to offer more going forward, even though key men Pogba and Ibrahimovic are still working their way back to full fitness.
Meanwhile, Basel, who are three points behind United in Group A, kept their hopes alive with the victory. They finish the group stage against Benfica at Estadio da Luz.