Thorsten Fink, the present Hamburger SV manager must have felt chills going up and down his spine today as his former club, FC Basel dumped Man Utd unceremoniously out of the Champions League. You read that right. Last year's finalist crashed and burned out in the group stage. There was no glory, only an extremely red faced Sir Alex, left to unleash the mother of god tirades at his side who should have qualified from this underwhelming group with one leg tied.
Fink was the unfortunate midfielder who gifted Teddy Sheringham a last minute equalizer 12 years ago as Bayern went onto lose the 1999 Champions League final to Utd leading with just three minutes left on the clock. As Basel's manager, the former Bayern player lived through a similar cycle of ecstasy and agony as his club mounted a brilliant comeback to take the lead 3-2 only to be denied a win with a 90th minute equalizer by Ashley Young in the first leg. An agonized Fink on the sidelines in the midst of a flashback was one of the enduring images of that compelling match.
Less than a month later Hamburger SV came knocking and Fink returned to the Bundesliga leaving Basel in the hands of his long time assistant Heiko Vogel. But the template of the team was maintained as it was two years ago when Fink arrived at St Jakob's Park with Alexander Frei and Marco Streller combining to form one of the most lethal pairings up front with 36 goals.
Valentin Stocker and veteran Scott Chipperfield had a break out year as Basel became a goal scoring machine. Xherdan Shaqiri, another of Basel's outstanding midfield prospects moved up to the senior squad and Jacques Zoua arriving from the Cameroonian league added one more layer of physicality to the firepower. The following year, Fink reposed faith in 19 year old Granit Xhaka promoting him from the junior ranks. Xhaka repaid the favour by unleashing his holding qualities which were principal to Basel's first leg heroics against Utd.
Today, a Basel side sporting many of these names moved onto the next stage as Alexander Frei and Marco Streller made a mistake prone Utd defense pay with their two chances at goal. Utd dominated possession but Yann Sommer and Basel's defense held on surviving a near own goal by Marcus Steinhofer. Phil Jones narrowed the gap but it was too late. This was truly a historical day for FC Basel, Heiko Vogel, and chiefly, the man let bereft 12 years ago, Thorsten Fink.