No Pogba, no punch

Left: Basel's Renato Steffen competing with Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba on Wednesday. The Swiss club saw more of the ball once the Frenchman went off in the 65th minute. Below: Basel's Michael Lang celebrating his 89th-minute goal. Despit
Basel's Renato Steffen competing with Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba on Wednesday. The Swiss club saw more of the ball once the Frenchman went off in the 65th minute. PHOTO: REUTERS
Left: Basel's Renato Steffen competing with Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba on Wednesday. The Swiss club saw more of the ball once the Frenchman went off in the 65th minute. Below: Basel's Michael Lang celebrating his 89th-minute goal. Despit
Basel's Michael Lang celebrating his 89th-minute goal. Despite the tumble, United remain favourites to top Group A with a three-point lead and superior goal difference.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

United midfielder's withdrawal lifts Basel as Ferdinand blasts 'unprofessional' Devils

BASEL • Disaster hit a wasteful Manchester United with less than a minute of normal time left, when Michael Lang's last-gasp strike gave Basel a shock 1-0 Champions League win on Wednesday.

United remain top with 12 points and will still progress to the last 16 if they avoid losing by fewer than six goals at home to CSKA Moscow in their final Group A game.

A draw on Dec 5 against CSKA, who are three points behind them and level with Basel, will be enough to guarantee top spot, but they should have finished the job in Switzerland.

Jose Mourinho's team sleepwalked through the second half, and that will annoy a manager who prides himself on ultra-professionalism.

The Portuguese, however, refused to blame his players and said his decision to take off influential midfielder Paul Pogba in the 65th minute turned the tide in the Swiss team's favour at St Jakob-Park.

"The first half was a perfect half without the goals... we knew the opponent would try a different reaction (in the second half)," he said.

"Did Paul Pogba coming out have an impact in the team? I think it had, we were not such a good team after Paul had to come out but he had to be, he cannot go to levels of fatigue after 65 minutes."

NO POINTING OF FINGERS

Daley was blaming himself, it's totally unfair because at half-time it should have been 5-0... But you don't score, the opponent survives, and... in the last minute they score.

JOSE MOURINHO, Manchester United manager, absolving defender Daley Blind of blame for Basel's late winner.

He added that with the calibre of players he had on his bench, they should have sewn up the game.

"I brought to the pitch an experienced player like (Nemanja) Matic that I thought could effect the game, I bring Marcus (Rashford) to give us more depth, more speed, more problems, Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) to hold the ball, to sit with the ball, to drop and have it.

"The approach was good, I cannot blame the players. I think we play a match like this 10 times and out of nine, we win comfortably. The one was now."

Lang tucked in an 89th-minute winner after Raoul Petretta found him with a pinpoint low cross at the far post, giving United's stand-in 'keeper Sergio Romero no chance.

United defender Daley Blind blamed himself for Basel's late winner but Mourinho was adamant the Dutchman should not be made a scapegoat.

"Daley was blaming himself, it's totally unfair because at half-time, it should have been 5-0," he said.

"They didn't have a shot, we had a huge percentage of the ball, created numerous chances and the game was easy to win.

"But you don't score, the opponent survives, and in the second half, you feel they have a chance and in the last minute, they score."

Former United defender Rio Ferdinand accused the Red Devils of "lacking professionalism", particularly the second-half showing which followed a promising start from the visitors.

Ferdinand told BT Sport: "It's what you wouldn't really associate with a Jose Mourinho team - and that's lacking professionalism.

"In the second half, they lacked that discipline.

"How many times, wave after wave of (Basel) attack getting beyond the United midfield - it just wasn't a good enough second half."

Former United captain Roy Keane blamed the loss on Mourinho's decision to rotate his squad but still thinks his former team will compete for Champions League glory this season.

"It was a game they let slip," Keane told ITV. "Nothing to be too worried about though.

"The big plus for United is that their form has been so good that they could afford to slip up tonight.

"There were five or six players in that side that wouldn't be in their strongest team.

"They'll be competing to win this title - no doubt."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2017, with the headline 'No Pogba, no punch'. Print Edition | Subscribe