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Ibrahimovic treble fails to save United from Mourinho blast

City AM logo City AM 16/02/2017 Ross McLean

© Provided by CityAM Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho hit out at his players for having the wrong pre-match attitude despite them chalking up a commanding Europa League last-16 victory over Saint-Etienne.

Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the 17th hat-trick of his career and his 17th goal against Saint-Etienne as United paved the way for a potentially comfortable second leg in France on Wednesday.

“I had the feeling immediately in the dressing room; too noisy, too funny, too relaxed,” said Mourinho.

“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 was a different story.”

A major European trophy remains a gaping hole on the otherwise well-stocked list of Ibrahimovic’s career gongs, and with United still fighting on four fronts, the 35-year-old has urged his fellow players to relish the onset of the season’s business end.

“We’re winning but in a short time everything can change,” he said. “It’s important to keep going, keep working hard and get the wins we need to keep the confidence. This is the decisive moment for the season.”

United opened the scoring on 15 minutes when Ibrahimovic’s free-kick took a double deflection off hapless Saint-Etienne midfielder Vincent Pajot and squirmed over the line, beyond stranded goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier.

The hosts created chances but failed to extend their advantage. The closest effort was Paul Pogba’s header from six yards which rattled the crossbar following a whipped Daley Blind free-kick.

Substitute Ole Selnaes clipped Saint-Etienne’s best opportunity over the bar, seconds before Marcus Rashford surged into the opposition penalty area and provided the ammunition for a simple Ibrahimovic tap in.

Ibrahimovic completed his treble with two minutes remaining as he confidently dispatched a penalty low to Ruffier’s right after being felled in the box by Kevin Theophile-Catherine.

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