Failure is inevitable now and again but it always comes as a little surprise in the case of Sir Alex Ferguson. His career, after all, has long been devoted to overcoming nearly all obstacles. The sight of Manchester United leaving the group phase after twice being unable to defeat Basel must be as incongruous as it is painful for the Old Trafford club.
This game irked them, whether through the challenge that removed Nemanja Vidic from the game or the plain fact that they were not sharp enough in front of goal without Javier Hernández. It will be galling for Ferguson that elimination from this great tournament has befallen them in a game that ought to be well within the scope of the squad.
For Ferguson and his men regret has more often come of late from defeats by Barcelona in Champions League finals. There is no disgrace in falling to a lineup that will take an eminent place in the history of the game but the departure from the tournament at the hands of Basel is the sort of outcome to spark recriminations and questions. It will not do the balance sheet much good either.