Jose Mourinho refused to blame his players after Manchester United suffered a 1-0 defeat at Basel in their fifth Champions League match.
United could have secured top spot in Group A with a point but Michael Lang's late strike means the Red Devils still need to avoid defeat against CSKA Moscow in their final group match to qualify as group winners.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Mourinho cited Basel's defensive tactics as the reason why United struggled to break down their hosts.
He said: "We played against a team that played with five defenders. We knew that.
"We tried to play with three attacking players and that worked in the first half because they couldn't handle us.
"We didn't score in the second half probably [because of] the fact that we know one point is enough.
"Probably [when] at 75 minutes, 80 minutes we didn't score, so it is not time to try to win, it is now time to try control and in the end we lost.
"So it's hard for me to be upset with the players. The first half the attitude was good, the football was good. It is really difficult to blame. It's just football."
Marouane Fellaini and Marcos Rojo both hit the woodwork in the first half while Anthony Martial also had a shot saved, but the late introductions of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford failed to produce a goal for the visitors.
United play Brighton on Saturday in their next match, while their next Champions League fixture is against CSKA Moscow early next month.