FC BASEL 2, MAN UNITED 1.
Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Manchester United had only themselves to blame for their early exit from the Champions League.
The defeat in Switzerland at the hands of FC Basel condemned the Reds to the ignominy of the Europa League and Thursday night football for the first time.
It was the first time since 2005/06 that United, finalists in three of the last four seasons, had bowed out in the group phase.
Indeed, it was only the third time in Ferguson’s long reign at Old Trafford that United had gone out at this stage, a massive surprise bearing in mind they were in possibly the easiest group.
However, a failure to beat Basel and Benfica in four group games ultimately led to their demise with Ferguson pointing to the 3-3 draw at home to the Swiss side as contributing to their downfall. United established an early two-goal lead only to allow their opponents back into a game which had looked won inside the opening 20 minutes.
Ferguson said: “It’s part of football. These young players will feel the disappointment, but they will have to cope with it and get on with their careers.
“The 3-3 draw at home cost us. We were careless that night and let ourselves down badly.”
United were on the back foot from as early as the ninth minute when Marco Streller took advantage of an injury to Chris Smalling to put Basel ahead.
It followed woeful defending as keeper David De Gea for some inexplicable reason tried to clear Xherdan Shaqiri’s low cross with his feet from inside the six-yard box. He diverted the ball only as far as Streller who fired it back past him.
United’s troubles deepened in the opening period with the loss of Nemanja Vidic with a serious knee injury.
They rallied in the second half as Wayne Rooney curled a goal attempt agonisingly wide while Markus Steinhofer’s clearance hit his own crossbar as United’s luck was out.
As desperation set in, Ferguson sent on Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck, but it was the Swiss who struck again six minutes from time when Shaqiri’s cross was headed home by Alex Frei.
United gave themselves a glimmer of hope with an 89th minute goal from Phil Jones, a close-range header after Macheda’s effort came back off the crossbar.
Needing a draw to progress, United pressed forward but were unable to breach the home defence for a second time as the Swiss celebrated qualification.