Football Features

What came of the Basel team that condemned Man Utd to their ‘first’ ever Europa League campaign?

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 16:45, 18 August 2020

Manchester United have missed out on the chance to play a Europa League final for the second time in four years after losing to Sevilla.

Of course, a decade ago United had never even played in the Europa League in its current guise. Such was the Red Devils’ success under Sir Alex Ferguson that they only ever played two UEFA Cup ties in his entire tenure as coach, in 1992 and 1995, losing both to Russian sides.

The third time Sir Alex ventured into the competition (or, the first since it was re-branded from the Uefa Cup) came after a Champions League humiliation in 2011/12. Elimination from the group stages as the Red Devils finished third behind Benfica and Basel. United hadn’t been at their best in the group, winning just twice and drawing their other three games. But they knew a draw against Basel would have sent them through in second.

However that’s not what happened. Instead Manchester United headed to Switzerland in December 2011 and then, less than a year on from contesting the Champions League final… lost.

Basel beat them soundly and qualified ahead of them. In 2020/21 they’ll have to go through Europa League qualifiers having finished third in the Swiss Super League, but what ever happened next to those unlikely heroes defeated the mighty Manchester United? We took a look with Football Index….


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Starters:

Yann Sommer

Position: Goalkeeper
Basel appearances: 170
Career path: Basel, Vaduz (loan), Grasshoppers (loan), Borussia Monchengladbach
Football Index value: £0.79 (Sell)  £0.86 (Buy)

Yann Sommer was a product of Basel’s youth academy and that night against United performed admirably, only conceding late on to a scrappy effort from Phil Jones. He spent a couple more years at Basel (winning the title in his last four seasons) before moving to Gladbach in the Bundesliga, where he’s been a starter ever since.

Markus Steinhofer

Position: Right-back
Basel appearances: 110
Career path: RB Salzburg (loan), Eintracht Frankfurt, Kaiserslautern (loan), Basel, Real Betis, 1860 Munich, Aalen, Sparta Praha, Darmstadt 98, Eichstatt

Steinhofer has had a journeyman’s career that’s taken him all around central Europe, but Basel placed in the middle and was his longest and most successful stay. After that he went to Real Betis before returning to the Bundesliga. He made one final trip abroad to Prague before settling back in German football and then retiring.

Aleksandar Dragovic

Position: Centre-back
Basel appearances: 112
Career path: Austria Vienna, Basel, Dynamo Kyiv, Bayer Leverkusen, Leicester (loan)
Football Index value: £0.10 (Sell)  £0.29 (Buy)

Dragovic was Basel’s young stud defender back when they beat United, and many tipped him for greatness. However that never materialised and his development stalled, especially when he went to Dynamo Kyiv. A loan spell with Leicester didn’t work out so he’s now playing his part in a squad role for Leverkusen.

David Abraham

Position: Centre-back
Basel appearances: 150
Career path: Independiente, Gimnastic (loan), Basel, Getafe, Hoffenheim, Eintracht Frankfurt
Football Index value: £0.09 (Sell)  £0.22 (Buy)

The Argentine defender was at the peak of his powers playing for Basel and had a big role in stifling United. After Switzerland he tried his hand in Spain with Getafe but it never worked out. He moved to the Bundesliga, where eventually he found a home in Frankfurt.

Park Joo-ho

Position: Left-back
Basel appearances: 77
Career path: Mito Hollyhock, Kashima Antlers, Jubilo Iwata, Basel, Mainz, Borussia Dortmund, Ulsan Hyundai
Football Index value: £0.09 (Sell)  £0.12 (Buy)

The Korean plied his career in Japan before Basel, but after Switzerland he moved to the Bundesliga twice following unintentionally in Jurgen Klopp’s footsteps, first playing for Mainz and then Borussia Dortmund where he helped them win the DFB-Pokal.

Cabral

Position: Defensive midfielder
Basel appearances: 152
Career path: Lausanne-Sport, Basel, Sevilla B (loan), Sunderland, Genoa (loan), FC Zurich, Le Mont LS, Lausanne-Sport

The Swiss holding midfielder was a Basel mainstay for years, and was a formidable roadblock for United in 2011. He stayed at Basel for another season, helping them reach the Europa League semi-finals, before joining Sunderland. His time in England didn’t work out though, nor did a loan to Genoa, and he eventually found himself bouncing around various clubs including FC Zurich.

Granit Xhaka

Position: Defensive midfielder
Basel appearances: 67
Career path: Basel, Borussia Monchengladbach, Arsenal
Football Index value: £0.45 (Sell)  £0.68 (Buy)

Granit Xhaka was just a teenager when he helped orchestrate Manchester United’s downfall from the middle of the park. Such was his promise that in summer 2012 he was snapped up by Gladbach. He spent four productive seasons in Germany honing his craft before Arsenal came calling. In North London he’s been a divisive figure but with Mikel Arteta in charge we may finally see the very best of Granit Xhaka.

Fabian Frei

Position: Central midfielder
Basel appearances: 366
Career path: Basel, St. Gallen (loan), Mainz, Basel
Football Index value: £0.17 (Sell)  £0.24 (Buy)

This Basel legend was dominant in for Basel as they shocked sides in 2011/12 and 2012/13. He starred for his hometown club until 2015 when he left to try the Bundesliga for a while with Mainz. He was there for three fairly unproductive seasons before returning home to Basel where now as elder statesman of the side he is tying to help them win the title for the first time since he left.

Xherdan Shaqiri

Position: Winger
Basel appearances: 130
Football Index value: £0.55 (Sell)  £0.80 (Buy)

Shaqiri tormented Manchester United back in 2011 and it was his devastating crosses that produced both goals. His performances that season were so strong that he earned a move to the Bundesliga. Individually he never quite got it going in Germany, however, but an unexpected move to Stoke reignited him. Finally he earned a spot as a back-up for Liverpool’s fabulous front three, watching from the bench as they won the Champions League in 2019 and Premier League in 2020.

Alex Frei

Position: Striker
Basel appearances: 167
Career path: Thun, Luzern, Servette, Stade Rennais, Borussia Dortmund, Basel

Alex Frei (no relation to Fabian) was Basel’s top-scorer that year with 18 goals. He scored what ended up being the winner against United too with a lovely back-post header. Unlike everyone else on this list, Basel was the end of the road for Frei and he retired in 2013. Currently he is sporting director for Luzern.

Marco Streller

Position: Striker
Basel appearances: 325
Career path: Basel, Concordia (loan), Thun (loan), Stuttgart, FC Koln (loan), Basel

Streller began his career as a Basel player but then took a few trips around Europe to mature (mostly on loan) before returning. The giant striker scored the opening goal against United with a sumptuous strike and carried on performing for years after that before finally retiring as a Basel player in 2015.

Subs:

Scott Chipperfield

Position: Winger
Basel appearances: 378
Career path: Wolves FC, Basel, FC Aesch

This Kiwi moved to Switzerland just after the turn of the century and then spent over a decade with Basel. Chipperfield was only a sub against United as it was his final season for the club and his powers were waning. Although it’s worth pointing out that only four players have made more league appearances for Basel than he has.

Genseric Kusunga

Position: Centre-back
Basel appearances: 21
Career path: Servette, Basel, Servette (loan), Oldham, Uniao Madeira, Dundee, Cova Piedade

Kusunga was a solid performer off the bench for Basel, providing squad depth. After he left them he moved around England, Scotland and Portugal, never really making a name for himself anywhere.

Valentin Stocker

Position: Winger
Basel appearances: 347
Career path: Basel, Hertha, Basel

Stocker was another Basel legend involved the night they beat United, albeit only off the bench as he was still recovering from a cruciate ligament injury suffered the season before. He played and won for a few more seasons before, like Fabian Frei, moving to the Bundesliga for a few years and then returning to Basel. He’s still at the club now and is trying to help them get back on top.