MAN UNITED 3, FC BASEL 3.
Manchester United needed an injury-time equaliser from Ashley Young to prevent an embarrassing home Champions League defeat by Swiss minnows FC Basel.
They were heading towards an unexpected loss until Young’s last-gasp intervention helped save faces which would have been as red as their shirts.
On an extraordinary night at Old Trafford, United surrendered a 2-0 advantage as Basel produced one of the surprise results in the competition.
Sir Alex Ferguson accused his players of being “careless” and failing to defend properly
He said: “There were so many gaps between midfield and the back four. Had we concentrated on defending, it would not have been a problem.
“Our defence and midfield has to be better because, if you are lax, you suffer.
“We gave it away and were left grappling for a draw. It is a wake-up call in many ways because there was carelessness about our game.”
Ferguson refused to make excuses for injuries to key players, including defenders Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans saying they still had enough quality at the back.
United looked to have victory in the bag after only 16 minutes as Danny Welbeck announced his arrival on Europe’s biggest football stage with his first Champions League goals.
The young striker, who had failed to find the net in his two previous appearances, scored twice in as many first-half minutes as a routine win appeared on the cards.
Welbeck’s lively display vindicated Ferguson’s decision to play him ahead of Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen in the injury enforced absences of Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez.
Whether it brought about complacency, but United received a rude awakening as Basel produced an unimaginable fightback in the second period scoring three goals in an enthralling 17-minute spell as United capitulated.
Even before the second-half collapse, there had been some worrying defensive lapses which one of Europe’s top teams would surely have punished.
There was an early warning with Fabian Frei was put through on goal only for him to blaze wide with the goal at his mercy.
United had a couple of sniffs at goal before Welbeck broke the deadlock in the 16th minute when Ryan Giggs laid a Fabio cross into his path to score with a low shot.
Giggs was the provider moments later with a glorious diagonal pass which released Welbeck who swept home a drive low to the left of keeper Yann Sommer.
If United thought it was game, set and match at this early stage they were mistaken as Basel kept plugging away and before the break had four presentable chances to either reduce or wipe out the deficit. All they lacked was a clinical cutting edge.
United failed to heed those warning signs and soon after the restart Marco Streller found himself clean through on goal only to be denied by a superb save with the outstretched leg of keeper David De Gea.
The home fans were silenced just short of the hour when Basel scored twice in an amazing two-minute spell to come back from the dead.
De Gea made a save from a corner but the ball came out to Fabian Frei who from 12 yards scored with a shot which flew in off the upright.
It was to get even worse when Basel were rewarded again for their positive play. Fabian Frei supplied a pinpoint cross from the right for Alexander Frei to head from six yards.
And it got even worse for United when they conceded a 75th minute penalty when Antonio Valencia tripped Streller and Alexander Frei scored from the spot as the visitors could not believe what they were witnessing.
United threw on Dimitar Berbatov after the third goal having earlier introduced Ji-Sung Park and Nani.
It looked as though Basel would hold on for a famous victory until United equalised in the 91st minute when Nani provided the right-wing cross for Young to head home.
There might have even been further twists in the five minutes of stoppages as Welbeck’s header flashed just wide and Berbatov’s angled shot flew into the side netting as United were unable to find a winner.