Basel will arrive at Old Trafford with Jose Mourinho’s side in ostensibly good shape, top of the Premier League with 10 points from four games and with their marquee summer signing, Romelu Lukaku, in stunning goalscoring form.
Yet while Mourinho has just cause to be delighted with his team’s start to the season, Stoke City exposed some chinks in the United armour that will offer some encouragement, not only to their rivals for the Premier League title but also to upcoming opponents at home and in Europe.
Ander Herrera, whose return to the starting line-up coincided with United’s first dropped points of the season, sounded a note of caution as they prepare to rejoin the Champions League after a season away.
“We have to know where we come from,” said Herrera. “We have come from the Europa League, we won it and it is very important and it is a very good title but it is the Europa League.
“We were sixth in the Premier League so we have to respect every team we face because they deserve to be in the Champions League. Basel have been champions of Switzerland for many years, they have a talented team.
“They sell players to the world with a lot of talent. We have to respect them.
“We are a big club and maybe the biggest in the world but we were not in Champions League last season and we have to take it step by step.”
While much of the attention in the wake of Saturday’s game in the Potteries surrounded the touchline fall-out between the managers, Mourinho is certain to spend more time pondering his team’s defensive frailties than his spat with Mark Hughes.
The United manager refused Hughes’s offer of a full-time handshake after Hughes, the United legend, had shoved his opposite number and allegedly aimed some blunt Anglo-Saxon in his direction during a fractious second half.
Mourinho irritability was due in part, no doubt, caused by the relative ease with which Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting ended United’s perfect start to the Premier League season.
The Cameroon international, who joined Stoke on a free transfer from Schalke this summer, netted twice, becoming the first man to score against Mourinho’s side in the league this season.
Phil Jones will not be rushing to watch the goals again; the England and United defender vacating his near-post position as Mame Diouf crossed for Choupo-Moting’s 43rd-minute tap-in, then falling embarrassingly in a heap as the Stoke man headed home a Xherdan Shaqiri cross on 63.
Of more encouragement to Mourinho will be the form of goalkeeper David De Gea, whose reaction save from Jese Rodriguez moments before Choupo-Moting’s second goal was stunning.
The most cheery news for Mourinho will be the classy way that Lukaku has hit the ground running.
After Marcus Rashford had inadvertently deflected Paul Pogba’s header home for the equaliser in first-half stoppage time, Lukaku gave United a second-half lead when he latched onto Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s superb pass and finished at the second attempt.
It was his fourth goal in as many United appearances and now comes his next challenge; transferring his domestic form into his first Champions League campaign.
“Last season we won three titles because we had one of the top scorers like Zlatan Ibrahimovic,” said Herrera.
“If you want to be a champion and win titles you need a guy like him.
“Paul Pogba is there to score goals, Marcus will score, Anthony Martial is scoring, Juan Mata will score because it is in his DNA so we cannot give all the responsibility to Romelu.
“It is important to have him though. “It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t played Champions League before, he has scored goals and played in the best league in the world so he will score goals for us.
Butland 7; Zouma 7, Cameron 6 (Martins Indi HT, 6), Wimmer 5; Diouf 6, Allen 6, Fletcher 7, Pieters 5; Shaqiri 6, Choupo-Moting 8; Jese 6 (Berahino 75). Subs: Grant, Tymon, Adam, Crouch, Ramadan.
De Gea 7; Valencia 6, Bailly 6, Jones 5, Darmian 6; Herrera 6 (Martial 72), Matic 7, Pogba 6; Mkhitaryan 8 (Lingard 84); Lukaku 7, Rashford 7 (Mata 72). Subs: Romero, Smalling, Carrick, Blind.
Neil Swarbrick 7