Man United needs to perform in Basel
BASEL - The Associated Press
Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney dribbles past Aston Villa’s players during their English Premier League soccer match at Villa Park ground in Birmingham, England, Saturday, Dec. 3. AP photoManchester United is under rare pressure to reach the knockout stage of the Champions League when it faces surprise FC Basel tonight.
The English champions need at least a draw at St. Jakob Park to avoid its second group-stage elimination in the past 16 years.
A victory for Basel would see it progress to the last 16 with Benfica. The Portuguese club leads the group and is favored to win it when completing its program at home to last-place Romanian club Otelul Galati.
“The only advantage is (Basel) do need to win and they have to try to beat us,” Man United manager Alex Ferguson said. “We’ve always kept good possession of the ball and made that a dominating factor of our game. It can take the temperature out of the game.” Ferguson laughed off suggestions last month that his team has struggled this season in a competition which it has won and been runner-up twice since 2008.
Still, although undefeated in five group matches, United has beaten only Galati while drawing the other three against its main rivals.
The expected balance of power was upset when Basel recovered from a two-goal deficit to draw 3-3 at Old Trafford in September. Only Ashley Young’s 90th-minute equalizer saved United from defeat.
The visitors are without forward Javier Hernandez, who was injured in a Premier League win at Aston Villa on Saturday, but defender Nemanja Vidic is back after a two-game Champions League ban for his red card during a 2-0 win in Romania.
Wayne Rooney also will return to the stadium where he starred under extreme pressure last season. Rooney shrugged off tabloid newspaper accusations about his private life to score in England’s 3-1 win over Switzerland early in its successful 2012 European Championship campaign.
Rooney will stay in Switzerland tomorrow to help present his appeal at UEFA against a three-match ban which currently rules him out of the entire Euro 2012 group stage.