Basel is a centre of the
pharmaceutical industry and Manchester United manager Sir Alex
Ferguson must find the right formula against the Swiss champions
to avoid a premature Champions League exit on Wednesday.
United, who have failed to get past the group stage only
twice in 16 previous Champions League appearances, still need a
point away to FC Basel to complete what is usually the formality
of qualifying for the knockout stages.
A win for the hosts would send them through along with
Benfica who have already made sure of taking one of the two
places out of Group C.
Although unbeaten with nine points, one more than
third-place Basel, Ferguson's side have only managed two wins in
five matches, both of them against rank outsiders Otelul Galati
They drew home and away against Benfica and were
astonishingly held 3-3 at home by Basel earlier in the group,
needing a last-gasp goal from Ashley Young to salvage a point.
Basel, 2-0 down at half-time in that game, scored three times
in 18 almost surreal second-half minutes in a performance which
their players still struggle to come to terms with.
"It is amazing when you are playing in front of a big crowd
against players you know from the television and a club such a
great tradition and name," said Basel striker Alexander Frei,
who scored twice in that match.
"We are proud we got a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford and it will
be important for the rest of our careers."
Basel have won all six domestic league games since Heiko
Vogel was promoted from assistant to coach to replace Thorsten
Fink, who left to take charge of Hamburg SV shortly after the
match at Old Trafford.
Frei, Switzerland's record scorer at international level,
has scored 15 times in the last 16 matches and Basel have
already amassed enough points to ensure they will top the Swiss
league when it stops for the winter break.
However, they are well aware that there is a huge gap
between domestic and international football as they found with
home defeats to AS Roma and Bayern Munich in the Champions
League last season and to Fulham in the Europa League the season
United are still picking up points in the Premier League
despite not playing particularly well or scoring many goals.
Their 1-0 win at Aston Villa on Saturday was the seventh
successive league match in which they have scored once, while
the usually prolific Wayne Rooney has not scored in his last
seven matches since converting two penalties against Otelul
Galati in United's 2-0 win in Romania on October 18.
Javier Hernandez, the 23-year-old Mexican striker, has
scored four of those seven goals, but he suffered ankle ligament
damage at Villa Park which will sideline him for at least a
"We are having a bad time with injuries at the moment that's
why we have a strong squad," said Ferguson, who is waiting on
Rio Ferdinand's fitness after the central defender went off
after 64 minutes against Villa.
Michael Carrick, who played well in a creative midfield role
on Saturday, is suspended, so newly-capped England defender Phil
Jones, who scored the first senior goal of his career against
Villa, could well continue in a central midfield role.
Despite their lack of goals, United have been defending well
in the league, conceding just once in their last five games
since their 6-1 demolition by Manchester City on October 23.
FC Basel: 1-Yann Sommer; 27-Markus Steinhoefer, 19-David
Abraham, 6-Alexander Dragovic, 3-Park Joo Ho; 17-Xherdan
Shaqiri, 24-Cabral, 34-Granit Xhaka, 20-Fabian Frei; 9-Marco
Streller, 13-Alexander Frei.
Manchester United: 1-David De Gea; 3-Patrice Evra, 5-Rio
Ferdinand, 15-Nemanja Vidic, 20-Fabio da Silva; 17-Nani, 4-Phil
Jones, 24-Darren Fletcher, 18-Ashley Young; 13-Ji-Sung Park,
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)
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