Manchester United wrapped up a convincing 4-0 aggregate triumph against Saint-Etienne inside an intimidating Stade Geoffroy-Guichard but the 1-0 win on the night came at a cost.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s opener left Les Verts needing five goals to progress but the Armenian was replaced soon afterwards with an injury, while Eric Bailly was sent off in the 63rd minute for a second yellow card.
The Reds contained the hosts early on and were extremely professional in quelling any initial danger. Not that it quietened the vociferous crowd but Jose Mourinho will have been satisfied his message had been understood as his strong XI showed composure and quality to reach the Europa League last 16.
From the first real attack of any note, after 16 minutes, Mkhitaryan effectively sealed the tie with a top-class finish. A neat build-up saw Juan Mata use Daley Blind’s overlapping run as a decoy and instead drifted inside to guide a lovely cross to the near post. Mkhitaryan did the rest, feathering the ball past Stephane Ruffier with a delicate touch.
Another Mata cross caused problems when Loic Perrin’s clearance hit team-mate Vincent Pajot and forced a diving save out of Ruffier but there was frustration for United when Mkhitaryan was forced off injured in only the 25th minute, with Marcus Rashford taking his place.
Mourinho’s men carved the Saint-Etienne defence open again when Zlatan Ibrahimovic fed Ashley Young but the right-back’s centre flew agonisingly across the face of goal. Les Verts finally started to generate some chances of their own but Bailly blocked a Jordan Veretout shot and Perrin was guilty of directing a free header from a free-kick straight at Sergio Romero.
When referee Deniz Aytekin did not, for once, buy Kevin Malcult’s histrionics in regularly throwing himself to the ground under the slightest pressure, with Rashford using his strength, the substitute set Ibrahimovic up for an opportunity but he fired a powerful effort over the bar. Back came the home side and a combination of Bailly and Romero snuffed out Kevin Monnet-Paquet when he raced towards goal.