Champions League: FC Basel defeat Manchester United 1 – 0

Lang scores for FC Basel
Lang scores for FC Basel
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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho says his side should have been five or six goals ahead by half-time of their Champions League defeat by Basel.

United dominated the first half of their penultimate group game, with Marouane Fellaini and Marcos Rojo hitting the woodwork.

But, on the brink of securing the point they needed to reach the knockout stage, the visitors were undone by Michael Lang’s 89th-minute goal.

“The first half was the perfect half – without the goals. I cannot complain. I cannot blame the players,” said Mourinho.

“I think if we play a match like this 10 times, nine we win comfortably. In one we lose – and the one was now.”

Renato Steffen and Dimitri Oberlin had already gone close for the hosts in the second half before Lang turned in Raoul Petretta’s cross at the back post.

Anything better than a seven-goal defeat by CSKA Moscow in their final group game on 5 December would still guarantee United their place in the last 16.

Basel belatedly live up to pre-match hype

Basel emerged before kick-off to the backdrop of a huge banner promising the sort of atmosphere that has spooked the likes of Liverpool,Chelsea,Tottenham and United in recent years.

It appeared an empty gesture in a first half during which United enjoyed 74% possession and the hosts failed to have a shot on target.

But United could not translate that dominance to the scoresheet and were stretched out of shape from the start of the second half.

The Swiss side, seven points off the top of their domestic league, found space and little resistance in midfield, and the pace of Lang, Oberlin and Mohamed Elyounoussi helped them grow in danger.

The crowd increased in volume and the home side’s chances increased in frequency, with Geoffroy Serey Die bringing a good save out of Sergio Romero, before Lang’s decisive blow.

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‘Pogback’ not yet fully complete

Nobody summed up United’s performance more than Paul Pogba.

United’s record signing made a seamless return to action after nine weeks out in the weekend’s win over Newcastle, and initially revelled in the responsibility of the captaincy against Basel.

Pogba was United’s fulcrum early on – coming deep to pick the ball up from defence, prompting their most incisive attacks and decorating his play with some extravagant pieces of skill.

A delicious no-look through ball laid on the game’s first clear chance, only for Romelu Lukaku to blast straight at Tomas Vaclik when precision was needed.

The Frenchman curled a free-kick wide before the break, but faded badly from then on as Basel too often broke at a vulnerable defence.

A crisp long-ranger into the gloves of Vaclik in the 65th minute was his final contribution before manager Jose Mourinho attempted, unsuccessfully, to plug the gap with the introduction of Nemanja Matic.

Mourinho with reason to moan

With the Manchester derby five days after CSKA’s visit to Old Trafford in the final group game, Mourinho could have done with a truly dead rubber against the Muscovites.

In reality, a team United beat 4-1 away from home are unlikely to deny the Premier League side their place in the last-16 draw.

Lax finishing and lapsed concentration will irritate Mourinho more on a night on which tournament favourites Paris St Germain delivered another ruthless statement of intent against Celtic.

Man of the match was Michael Lang of Basel

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