United are out of the Champions League after slipping to a 2-1 defeat in Basel, courtesy of goals from Marco Streller and Alexander Frei.
Despite dominating most of the match, the Reds were beaten as Streller's early strike was added to by Frei's close-range effort in the 84th minute. Phil Jones' late header, his second goal in consecutive games after breaking his career duck at Aston Villa, proved insufficient as the hosts held out in injury time. United will instead compete in the Europa League for the first time and a night of misery was compounded by Nemanja Vidic's knee injury just before half-time with fears that the Serbian faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Sir Alex opted to field Wayne Rooney in a lone striker's role and the Reds settled quickly despite the wet conditions. Ji-sung Park curled an early shot on the turn wide and there had been no real warning of what was to follow at the other end in the ninth minute. With Chris Smalling stricken on the ground with a head injury after a collision with Vidic, play was allowed to continue with Xherdan Shaqiri's driven cross only kicked out by David De Gea to Streller, who returned it with interest by smashing past the Spanish keeper.
United's bright opening had counted for nothing and it was left to Nani to try and inspire a response. The winger fired over from a central position before being guilty of an over-ambitious long-range effort when Yann Sommer gifted him the ball. Some classic wing play by the Portugal international should have produced the equaliser but his inviting cross was miskicked by Rooney with Park also unable to convert inside the six-yard box.
Nani continued to be the main outlet and an outrageous piece of skill saw him battle past two defenders before Ashley Young eventually headed off target. The dominant visitors continued to press and Ryan Giggs'