Manchester United manager José Mourinho took aim at his players’ approach to Thursday night’s Europa League tie with Saint-Étienne, despite his side running out 3-0 winners in the end.
A Zlatan Ibrahimovic hat-trick virtually ensured Man United’s place in the next round of the competition, but Mourinho insisted that the players’ relaxed and jokey demeanour meant that they rode their luck on a number of occasions, particularly in the first half.
After the victory, Mourinho told the listening media:
“I am [happy with the win] – especially because in the first half, we played so bad, and we managed to finish it winning 1-0 when we don’t deserve.
“It was down to lack of concentration.
“I had the feeling immediately in the dressing room – too noisy, too funny, too relaxed. Then my assistants had the feeling in the warm-up, with some of the guys not really focused on getting the right adrenaline in their bodies.
“Then the game started and the first thing we did was a back-pass [by Eric Bailly] to the striker [Romain Hamouma] to be face-to-face with Sergio [Romero].
“So, lack of concentration. And when you don’t have it, it’s difficult to recover it. So the first half was hard.”
Mourinho conceded that his side were lucky to go into the half time break with a 1-0 lead:
“Even myself on the touchline, I felt it was difficult, the communication. I needed half-time. So we were lucky, yes, to be winning 1-0.
“I am not happy with it. At half-time, the result could be 1-1. I always think we have to play every game with the same attitude.”
The Man United manager did accept, however, that the second half was a different story, as Ibrahimovic’s second and third goals put the match (and, presumably, the tie as a whole despite Mourinho’s claim otherwise) beyond the Ligue 1 side:
“To score three goals and not concede in the first leg at home, it’s always a good result – it is not over, but it is a good result.”
The second leg, incidentally, will take place next Wednesday evening rather than the usual Thursday for Europa League matches.