Gary Neville's second-half strike earned Manchester United FC a point and virtually ended FC Basel's hopes of reaching the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals despite a strong showing from the Swiss champions at Old Trafford.
Basel looked on course for a famous victory after dominating the first half against a makeshift United side and they deservedly went ahead through Christian Giménez on 14 minutes. But United hit back after the break and Neville's deflected volley on 53 minutes could prove a fatal blow to Basel's hopes of advancing. With Juventus FC defeating RC Deportivo La Coruña 3-2 in injury time in the night's other Group D encounter, Basel must now beat the Italian side 4-0 or by five goals next week to qualify.
It was a cruel ending for Basel on a night they had looked to make their own. Having already wrapped up top spot in the group, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was happy to leave Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooij and Paul Scholes on the substitutes' bench, but his second-string side struggled badly in their absence.
Youngsters Kieran Richardson and 19-year-old midfield player Darren Fletcher, making his senior debut, came in, but it was Basel who made the impression, running the opening stages through Hakan Yakin and Mario Cantaluppi.
The Swiss champions took the game to United and broke through on 14 minutes. Julio Rossi stretched the United defence on the right and when he cut the ball back Bernt Haas whipped in a cross that eluded Rio Ferdinand, allowing Giménez to control then fire past Roy Carroll.
United had no response as Basel continued to enjoy the majority of possession and not until the 34th minute did the home side finally register a shot on target, Diego Forlán blasting straight at Pascal Zuberbühler with a 30-metre free-kick. Three minutes after that, United might have fallen further behind when two missed headers by Gary Neville then Laurent Blanc presented Sébastien Barberis with a half-chance that he snapped narrowly wide.
That chance was symptomatic of a jaded first-half performance from the home side. United had been outplayed and it was no surprise to see Richardson make way for Giggs at the break. Again the hosts struggled to impose themselves, but this time luck went their way and they drew level eight minutes after the restart. The ball broke to Gary Neville on the edge of the area and his low, left-footed shot was deflected past Zuberbühler.
The momentum had now swung United's way and on 68 minutes a flowing move saw Fletcher pick out Forlán who squared for Ole Gunnar Solskjær, but the Norwegian blazed over from the penalty spot. David Beckham and Paul Scholes then entered the fray as United went in search of a club-record sixth straight Champions League win, but Basel held firm. The Swiss side, could not, however, force a winner of their own, leaving Juventus as clear favourites to join United in the last eight.