Jose Mourinho has criticised his Manchester United players for their overly relaxed approach in the build-up to Thursday night's (16 February) 3-0 Europa League last-32 first-leg victory over Saint-Etienne at Old Trafford.

The hosts ultimately took a giant step towards the next round courtesy of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's first hat-trick for the club that reduced Paul Pogba's battle against elder brother Florentin to a mere sideshow, but they began the match in notably sloppy fashion.

Initially undeterred by falling behind to a controversial deflected free-kick, Saint-Etienne seized on some lacklustre defending to create numerous chances and it was only their profligate finishing that allowed United go in at half-time with a slender lead.

Mourinho blamed a "lack of concentration," according to quotes from Manchester Evening News taken during his post-game press conference.

"I had the feeling immediately in the dressing room, too noisy, too funny, too relaxed.

"My assistants had the feeling in the warm-up, some of the guys were not focused on getting the right adrenaline in their bodies. The game started and the first thing we did was a back-pass to the striker.

"The first-half was hard. Even myself on the touchline, it was difficult to communicate. Second-half different story."

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho was not content with his players' pre-match focus

Having put the game to bed with a dominant second-half display, United will be very confident of seeing the job through during next Wednesday's (22 February) return fixture.

Supporters might now expect Mourinho to ring the changes for a meeting at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard that comes just four days before their EFL Cup final date with Southampton, although the manager insists he will still be fielding a strong team. Key midfielder Ander Herrera will sit out the second leg after picking up his third yellow card of the competition for a hand ball.


"I'm happy with the result," Mourinho added. "It's not over but it's a good result. It's a good rest for Herrera but I am always respectful. I don't want my team to be punished so I will go with a strong team."

Henrikh Mkhitaryan was not even named as a substitute against Saint-Etienne, with Mourinho revealing before kick-off that the rejuvenated Armenian playmaker is dealing with an unspecified illness. United travel to Ewood Park on Sunday for an FA Cup fifth-round tie against Championship relegation candidates Blackburn Rovers.