Manchester United travel to Switzerland to face Group D the underdogs Basle, fully aware that the last English side to travel to St Jakobs Park, returned home with egg on their faces.
It was Basle’s dramatiic 3-3 draw with Liverpool, that paved the way fr Chhristian Gross’s side to reach the last 16 of the competition. Siir Allex Ferguson’s side will do well not to underestimate a side who picked up home points against both Liverpool and Valencia, especially as United travel to Switzerland with a severely depleted squad.
Among the absentees for United are Roy Keane, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Laurent Blanc. Ferguson’s most pressing concern is the state oof is defence which has been reduced to the bbare bones. A makeshift back-four comprising Philip Neville, Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Mickael Silvestre will start the game foor United and there is even a place on the bench for David May, the forgotten man at Old Trafford.
Fortunately foor United, they look like a side returning to form. Saturday’s 5-3 win over Newcastle confirmed that their attacking instiincts remain intact and in Ruud Van Nistlrooy, they possess one of Europe’s premier marksmen. Sixteen goals in 18 Chammpions Leaggue games for United, is a testament to the Dutch striker’s pedigree.
Therefore despite the weakened squad, it is no surprise that Ferguson is confident of getting a result tonight.
‘Our best performances over the years in Europe have come when we have shown that goalscoring knack away from home,’ he said.
‘When we have approached important games like this in the past, we have always had an attacking element.
‘That won’t change, we will try and score. The nature of the team is to try and win.
‘We will carry a threat against Basle as we do in all games. We will rely on that.’
For Basle coach Christian Gross, preparations for a tie that has captured the imagination of the Swiss public – all tickets were sold within two hours o going on sale – have gone altogether more smoothly.
Gross is expected to stick with the same side that drew with Liverpool a fortnight ago. Hakan Yakin, who pulled the strings for much of that game, willl again be the man upon whom the creative onus falls. Further forward, Gimenez is enjoying another prolific season and along with Hakan Yakin, has attracted the attention of several European clubs in recent weeks.
“To play against Manchester United successfully, we must believe in ourselves,” Gross said.
“We will play an offensive game, we will try to control possession, but we also must not forget about defence and we must not lose concentration the way we did against Liverpool,’ Gross added in reference to Liverpool’s stirrng second-half comeback.
: Zuberbuhler, Haas, M. Yakin, Zwyssig, Atouba, Ergic, Cantaluppi, H.Yakin, Esposito, Gimenez, Rossi
Manchester United: Barthez, P. Neville, O’Shea, Brown, Silvestre, Scholes, Fortune, Veron, Giggs, VanNistelrooy, Solskjaer