Two quick-fire braces in either half – United's in the first, Basel's in the second – lit up an entertaining encounter at Old Trafford that swung both ways before eventually ending even thanks to a 90th-minute Ashley Young equaliser.
When Danny Welbeck sent United 2-0 up after just 17 minutes, United looked to be cruising. But as Basel stayed true to their footballing principles, attacked in numbers and pressed the Reds high up the pitch, they created chances and, with 14 minutes to play, had taken three of them.
That sent United in search of a late equaliser and, in the 90th minute, Young arrived at the far post to head home substitute Nani's cross and rescue a valuable point.
Sir Alex was visibly relieved to have snatched a draw at the final whistle, and yet the Reds had been two goals to the good with barely a quarter-of-an-hour on the clock. That said, the warning signs had been there. Basel even fashioned the first chance of the game. Midfielder Fabian Frei found space beyond Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones but blazed over from 18 yards when clean through after only five minutes.
Young then provided Antonio Valencia with a gift as inviting as a box of Swiss chocolates when he twisted and turned on the left flank before curling a sumptuous ball to the back post. The Ecuadorian's header, from all of two yards, flashed agonisingly across the face of goal.
Basel custodian Yann Sommer then did well to hold Young's firm volley, hit into the ground, before Welbeck netted the first of his double on 16 minutes. It wasn't the prettiest goal Welbeck, or United, will score this season. But they all count and Danny's scuffed shot from 12 yards, which appeared to dribble goalwards in slow-motion before spinning in off the post, was just reward for a bright start.