What a comeback from both FC Basel and Man Utd! Full marks to the Swiss team for not getting overawed by Utd's overwhelming Champions League record at Old Trafford.
Danny Welbeck's consecutive finishes a minute apart from each off Ryan Giggs's visionary passing and it appeared a cool winning result would be in the bag. Basel so attractive going forward was stymied by a series of frustrating misses with both Alexander Frei and Marco Streller off target even as opportunities came on an assembly line. The first half ended with both sides even on goal attempts with Utd leading in the critical stat of goals scored.
Basel seemed to have found another gear in the second half as Utd began to look a bit ragged in defense from the constant forays of Streller and Alexander Frei fed by the overactive midfield of Granit Xhaka and Fabian Frei. On the right Markus Steinhofer was an indefatigable presence. Utd conceded the first goal after David De Gea managed to keep Streller out from a corner but the ball came invitingly to Fabian Frei who smashed a half volley onto the post and into goal.
Minutes later the Frei show continued through Alexander Frei, coolly nodding in a header of Steinhofer's delectably floated cross as the Utd defense were sliced open again. Old Trafford looked a bit like a giant morgue after the equalizer. More was to follow as Basel completed a stunning comeback when Streller was brought down by Antonio Valencia and Frei converted from the spot. 3-2 and the grim, drawn faces of the Utd faithful told the tale.
This is Utd and it is rarely that they throw in the towel. Basel predictably went into a defensive shell withdrawing Streller and both Freis. Wrong move. Sir Alex introduced Nani. Right move. Utd regained a lot of fervour but going down the middle proved frustrating as Basel held firm. It was once again down the wings that Utd found the answer as from the right Nani whipped in a beautiful ball which found Ashley Young on the dime and past Yann Sommer.
Great match. Thorsten Fink, Basel's coach must have had some flashbacks to the 1999 CL final when coming in for Bayern in the waning minutes he sliced his clearance straight to Ryan Giggs who found Teddy Sheringham for the winning goal. Utd scored twice in extra time to beat Bayern after it looked like the German club had sealed victory. Utd have hit a bit of a wrinkle with draws against Benfica, Stoke, and now Basel.