By John Ryan
- United return to European top table
- Smalling and Lindelof set to replace suspended Bailly and Jones
The name FC Basel might not send a shudder down the spine that major European giants do. But their record against Manchester United is impressive with one win each and two draws from their 4 meetings to date.
In their first meeting, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side finished the game strongly to win by three goals to one. But in their last encounter the Swiss outfit sent United out of the Champions League and into the secondary Europa League.
Former Tottenham Manager Christian Gross managed FC Basel for ten years between 1999 and 2009. Winning four league titles and four Swiss Cups.
In most recent times Basel have beaten Chelsea home and away in the same Champions League season. And taken a Champions League point at Anfield. They are a club who punch above their weight in Europe.
The bigger Champions League clubs have made it something of an art form to rotate their squads effectively between Premier League and Champions League games.
If Jose Mourinho’s tactics from last season’s Europa League victory are any indicator. Then United will look to grind out a victory in this game with different personnel from the visit to Stoke last Saturday.
There seems to be a renewed determination at Old Trafford to entertain though. Twelve goals scored in the first four Premier League games of the season. Point to an expansive game with the focus on attack.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s mantra in the Champions League group stages was simple. Win your three home games and pick up a point on the road.
Ten points was always enough for Fergie. But the problem is that often led United down blind alleys and into a major second round tie. Mourinho will hopefully look to top the group.
The goals conceded against Stoke were poor. Stoke looked to get wide and attacked United’s full backs. Phil Jones defending for the equaliser was an achilles heel to the excellent form he has shown to date.
United will need a strong back line willing to put their bodies on the line. Football fans in general will forgive a player of lesser ability as long as they try. Certainly the second goal conceded at the Britannia stadium cannot happen again.
What Mourinho’s men need to deliver here is a home win without a goal conceded.
Basel have won the Swiss Super League eight times in a row. But have stuttered at the beginning of this season lying third after seven games.
Former Norwich player Ricky Van Wolfswinkel will be one of their stars hoping to find the net at Old Trafford. And with a squad containing many graduates from the FC Basel academy the visitors will be no pushover.
Unfortunately for Basel both of their top scorers from last season departed for pastures new which explains why their goal difference is less than Young Boys and FC Zurich above them in the Swiss table.
Basel have scored four times in seven outings and despite what defenders take the field for United the home side should be too strong.
The goal scoring form of Romelu Lukaku has been impressive and with Paul Pogba now finding his range in his second season and no longer weighed down by the ‘World’s most expensive player’ tag.
United should have too much firepower. Victor Lindelof is a player that Mourinho has held back until he adjusts to life in the Premier League but this game might just be perfect for him to play in.
If he can find his feet quickly he more than anyone could be the type of player who stops the goals we saw conceded at Stoke.
Jose Mourinho is still waiting for a section of the Manchester United fans to take to him. A big win in this game and that group will be shrinking in numbers.
Verdict: United 5-0 FC Basel