English league champions, Manchester United, will now have to re-focus their efforts on revised objectives and goals, following the club's shocking elimination from the group stages of the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League, according to Kevin McCarra of The Guardian. United were beaten 1-2 by Swiss club FC Basel, in Switzerland, who will join Portuguese club Benfica in the knock-out stages of the competition. Manchester United will now contest for the continent's secondary trophy, the Europa League.
The biggest shock of the elimination, though, was the fact that it came so early in the tournament, in the group stages. The English club were in Group C, which, apart from Basel and Benfica, held Romanian champions Otelul Galati. It seemed a foregone conclusion that the club would not only come through in flying colors but also to the group, courtesy its history in the competition; United have won the tournament thrice and were runners-up last year.
There was an earlier report, in The Mirror, which quoted Basel's star striker and captain, Marco Strellar as saying that the English club had disrespected his team by not taking them seriously. The remark came in the aftermath of 3-3 draw between the two sides, when they met for a group stage game, at Old Trafford. The game saw the Swiss team recover from being 0-2 down at one stage to lead 3-2 before United's Ashley Young salvaged a point for the English champions with a 90th-minute equalizer.
Meanwhile other results meant that United needed only a point in the return fixture in Switzerland to clinch their place in the last 16; a point that they ultimately could not get.
You can never go into a game showing fear. Yes, we will show United respect, that is clear. When they took a 2-0 lead, it seemed to me they maybe didn't take us seriously enough. But we know they will take us seriously now, given the points we have taken in the group, Streller said to The Mirror, before Wednesday's game.
In the run up to the game, several players, it seemed, had much else to think of. United's talisman and striker, Wayne Rooney, had his thoughts full of the red card he received some months earlier, when he kicked out at Montenegrin defender Miodrag Dzudovic, during a qualifying game for the 2012 European Championships. He initially received a three match suspension, which meant that his country had to begin their campaign without his services. Fortunately, since then UEFA has relented slightly, reducing the ban, effectively, to a two match suspension. The fact that Dzudovic was quoted by the Daily Star as saying it would be wrong to ban Rooney and it would be a real shame for the tournament and spectators (to miss the Englishman's presence) may have had some bearing on the matter.
More recently, The Guardian reported United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson's, reaction to Roy Keane's claim his old club had got what they deserved. Keane played for Manchester United, under Ferguson, between 1993 and 2005.
People have talked about the young players, but they've got a lot to do, it's a reality check for some, said Keane to ITV.
Roy had an opportunity to prove himself as a manager and it's a hard job. We have enough good young players to see us through. I have every confidence in them, was his former manager's response.
The reality now, though, is that Manchester United (and their local rivals, Manchester City) must look forward to the Europa League.