Manchester United go forward by revisiting old ground
Manchester United fans have been looking forward to the Red Devils’ return to the UEFA Champions League for quite a while. Finally this week the UCL anthem will blare once again through the PA system at Old Trafford.
United are back in the Champions League and so is José Mourinho. The club achieved qualification by winning the Europa League last season. They were drawn into Group A in late August. At first glance that looks an easy group stage draw as it avoids the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus from Pot 1. But Group A could get a lot trickier should United fail to get a positive result—i.e all 3 points—on Tuesday night.
The “Special One” sets the standard
José Mourinho has hinted that ‘getting out of the group’ is the bare minimum for Manchester United and that from then on, anything could happen. The Portuguese may not be far from wrong. 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 high time they translated that wealth of talent into good results on the biggest stage.
Mourinho’s men go into this fixture following a rather disappointing draw in the weekend at Stoke City. United should look to bounce back immediately against FC Basel.
Basel bedevil the Red Devils
For Basel—8-time defending Swiss champions—a visit to Manchester and Old Trafford is all too familiar and should bring back happy memories. The Swiss club earned a dramatic 3-3 draw at the Theatre of Dreams during the 2011/12 campaign. In the end that result proved crucial to knocking United out at the group stage. One of only two times they suffered elimination before the knockouts in 21 years of UCL 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, the Swiss side find themselves in a sticky patch. They would do well to get out of that slump to face Manchester United, thus far undefeated in the Premier League season.
Manchester United will be without the suspended Phil Jones and Eric Bailly. José Mourinho said after the draw at Stoke that Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof will replace them at the heart of the defense.
FC Basel do not have any suspensions and a clean bill of health ahead of the game.
- United are making their 21st appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage. They have failed to advance to the next round on only four occasions. Two of those eliminations have come in their last four UCL appearances 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 time they came fourth in Group A, collecting just two points from six outings.
- United are unbeaten in 18 European home games (W14 D4). Their last such loss coming as 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 their record is, W1 D5 L7.
Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Paul Pogba, unlike last year, has enjoyed a productive start to the 2017/18 season. A full pre-season with the club this summer has clearly aided his performance. The midfielder scored on the opening day. He added to his personal tally—another goal and two more assists in the next three games—to help keep the Red Devils top of the table now at the end of week four in the Premier League.
The Frenchman was also key to United’s successful Europa League campaign. He achieved the Team of the Tournament last time. 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 experience with Basel and at this highest level. He contributed one assist in 6 UCL starts last year. The 26-year-ld plays in the center of midfield. He will be crucial to Basel’s defensive efforts against United. Mourinho’s side dominates midfield possession and creates plenty of chances from the center. Basel’s chances of authoring another upset at Old Trafford may well rest with Xhaka’s boots.
Manchester United to avoid a repeat of 2011.
Manchester United 3-1 FC Basel
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