Ferguson must find right formula in Basel

Basel is a centre of the pharmaceutical industry and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson must find the right formula against the Swiss champions to avoid a premature Champions League exit on Wednesday.

United, who have failed to get past the group stage only twice in 16 previous Champions League appearances, still need a point away to FC Basel to complete what is usually the formality of qualifying for the knockout stages.

A win for the hosts would send them through along with Benfica who have already made sure of taking one of the two places out of Group C.

Although unbeaten with nine points, one more than third-place Basel, Ferguson's side have only managed two wins in five matches, both of them against rank outsiders Otelul Galati of Romania.

They drew home and away against Benfica and were astonishingly held 3-3 at home by Basel earlier in the group, needing a last-gasp goal from Ashley Young to salvage a point.

Basel, 2-0 down at half-time in that game, scored three times in 18 almost surreal second-half minutes in a performance which their players still struggle to come to terms with.

"It is amazing when you are playing in front of a big crowd against players you know from the television and a club such a great tradition and name," said Basel striker Alexander Frei, who scored twice in that match.

"We are proud we got a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford and it will be important for the rest of our careers."

Basel have won all six domestic league games since Heiko Vogel was promoted from assistant to coach to replace Thorsten Fink, who left to take charge of Hamburg SV shortly after the match at Old Trafford.

Frei, Switzerland's record scorer at international level, has scored 15 times in the last 16 matches and Basel have already amassed enough points to ensure they will top the Swiss league when it stops for the winter break.

However, they are well aware that there is a huge gap between domestic and international football as they found with home defeats to AS Roma and Bayern Munich in the Champions League last season and to Fulham in the Europa League the season before that.

INJURY WORRIES

United are still picking up points in the Premier League despite not playing particularly well or scoring many goals.

Their 1-0 win at Aston Villa on Saturday was the seventh successive league match in which they have scored once, while the usually prolific Wayne Rooney has not scored in his last seven matches since converting two penalties against Otelul Galati in United's 2-0 win in Romania on October 18.

Javier Hernandez, the 23-year-old Mexican striker, has scored four of those seven goals, but he suffered ankle ligament damage at Villa Park which will sideline him for at least a month.

"We are having a bad time with injuries at the moment that's why we have a strong squad," said Ferguson, who is waiting on Rio Ferdinand's fitness after the central defender went off after 64 minutes against Villa.

Michael Carrick, who played well in a creative midfield role on Saturday, is suspended, so newly-capped England defender Phil Jones, who scored the first senior goal of his career against Villa, could well continue in a central midfield role.

Despite their lack of goals, United have been defending well in the league, conceding just once in their last five games since their 6-1 demolition by Manchester City on October 23.

Probable teams:

FC Basel: 1-Yann Sommer; 27-Markus Steinhoefer, 19-David Abraham, 6-Alexander Dragovic, 3-Park Joo Ho; 17-Xherdan Shaqiri, 24-Cabral, 34-Granit Xhaka, 20-Fabian Frei; 9-Marco Streller, 13-Alexander Frei.

Manchester United: 1-David De Gea; 3-Patrice Evra, 5-Rio Ferdinand, 15-Nemanja Vidic, 20-Fabio da Silva; 17-Nani, 4-Phil Jones, 24-Darren Fletcher, 18-Ashley Young; 13-Ji-Sung Park, 10-Wayne Rooney

Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)


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