AFPMANCHESTER (AFP-Jiji) — Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho accused his players of not showing an appropriate level of mental preparation during the team’s 3-0 Europa League victory over Saint-Etienne.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s hat trick earned United a handsome win in Thursday’s last 32 first-leg match at Old Trafford, but the scoreline did not tell the full story.
Saint-Etienne finished the first half strongly and substitute Nolan Roux spurned a glorious chance to level 2 minutes before Ibrahimovic netted United’s second goal in the 75th minute.
Mourinho said United’s first half had been “so bad,” and when asked why, he said it had been down to a “lack of concentration.”
“I had the feeling immediately in the dressing room: too noisy, too funny, too relaxed,” he said. “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.
“The game started and the first thing we did was a back-pass [by Eric Bailly] to the striker to be face-to-face with Sergio [Romero, the United goalkeeper].
“Lack of concentration. When you don’t have it, it’s difficult to recover it. In the first half it was hard.
“Even myself on the touchline, it was difficult, the communication. I needed halftime. We were lucky to be winning 1-0. After that, different story, different result.”
Mourinho has made no secret of the fact he would rather be playing in the Champions League than its sister competition, but he said that was no excuse for United’s lack of focus.
“I know the Champions League is the competition everyone wants to play, everyone wants to win,” he said.
“But we don’t play the Champions League, we play the Europa League. We had the group phase a little bit like this. When we needed to win, we did it.
“When the focus is there, we answered. Tonight in the first half, it was too relaxed.”
Ibrahimovic, 35, took his tally of goals against Saint-Etienne to 17 in 14 games, but the 17th hat trick of his career was also probably the most scruffy.
He opened the scoring with a 15th-minute free kick that was awarded for a seemingly non-existent foul on him by Jordan Veretout and his shot trickled past Stephane Ruffier via a deflection off Vincent Pajot.
Gent grabs 1st-leg advantage
Tottenham Hotspur has work to do in the round of 32 against Gent after losing 1-0 in the first leg in Belgium.
The only goal of the game came just before the hour mark when French striker Jeremy Perbet scored at the second attempt from a Danijel Milicevic cutback, as Gent coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck celebrated his 53rd birthday with a win.
Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris pushed a Milicevic shot onto the post while Harry Kane had earlier struck an upright at the other end.
It was a disappointing performance from Mauricio Pochettino’s side, which now looks to turn the tie around in next week’s return if it is to avoid being eliminated from a second European competition in about two months.Speech