It’s time Manchester United fans looked forward to the UEFA Champions League anthem blaring through the PA system at Old Trafford as the Red Devils will begin their European campaign against Switzerland’s FC Basel.
Manchester United are back in the Champions League under Jose Mourinho, achieving qualification by winning the Europa League last season. Despite what at first glance, looks an easy group stage draw, having avoided the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus from Pot 1, Group A could get a lot more trickier should United fail to get a positive result i.e all 3 points, on Tuesday night.
Jose Mourinho while speaking to UEFA.com for the Champions League magazine, hinted that ‘getting out of the group’ was the bare minimum for Man United and that from then on, anything could happen. The Portuguese may not be wrong as United are one of the stronger sides in Europe at the moment thanks to the two productive transfer windows under his management, but it’s time they translated that wealth of talent available at their disposal into good results at the biggest of stages.
They will go into this fixture following a rather disappointing draw in the weekend at Stoke City and should look to bounce back immediately against the 8-time defending Swiss champions at Old Trafford.
For FC Basel, a visit to Manchester and Old Trafford is all too familiar and should bring back happy memories. For it was the Swiss club who earned a dramatic 3-3 draw at the Theatre of Dreams which, in the end, proved crucial to knocking Tuesday’s opponents out from the same stage in the 2011/12 campaign, one of two times they were eliminated before the knockouts in 21 years of qualification.
In a total of four meetings against the Red Devils, FC Basel have lost only once, scoring seven goals in the process. Having lost their most recent league encounter to Lausanne following a couple of draws, they find themselves in a sticky patch they will do well to get out of, against a strong Manchester United.
Manchester United will be without the suspended Phil Jones and Eric Bailly, as Jose Mourinho said after the draw at Stoke that Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof will replace them at the heart of the defence.
FC Basel do not have any suspensions, and do seem to have a clean bill of health ahead of the game.
- This is United’s 21st appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage, and only four times have they failed to make the next round. Two of those eliminations have come in their last four participations however; the English club finished third in their section in both 2011/12 and on their last appearance in 2015/16.
- This is FC Basel’s eighth group stage campaign, and their fourth in five years. Last term they came fourth in Group A, collecting just two points from their six outings.
- United are unbeaten in 18 European home games (W14 D4), going back to a 2-1 home loss to Real Madrid in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg.
- Basel’s record against English teams is W6 D8 L12; away it is W1 D5 L7.
Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Paul Pogba, unlike last season, has enjoyed a productive start to his 2017/18 season, clearly aided by a full pre-season with the club. The midfielder scored on the opening day and has added to his personal tally – another goal and two more assists in the next three games – keeping the Red Devils at the summit, by the end of week four in the Premier League.
The Frenchman was also key to United’s successful Europa League campaign – as a result of which, voted into the Team of the Tournament by the organization. A similar impact in the Champions League could prove vital to United’s prospects in Europe’s most prestigious club competition.
Taulant Xhaka – FC Basel
Taulant Xhaka, brother of Granit who plays for Arsenal, has adequate experience in Europe, with Switzerland’s biggest club having played in the competition last year – with one assist to his name in 6 starts. He plays in the center of midfield, where Mourinho’s Manchester United will dominate possession and create plenty of chances from, and hence, will be crucial to Basel’s chances of causing another upset at Old Trafford.
There will not be a repeat of 2011.
Manchester United 3-1 FC Basel