Ibrahimovic hat-trick helps Man Utd breeze past St Etienne
Swedish striker now has 23 goals in his first season at Old Trafford after notching the 17th treble of his career
Manchester United 3 Saint Etienne 0
A hat-trick from Zlatan Ibrahimovic all but secured Manchester United's place in the last 16 of the Europa League, barring an Arsenal-like collapse in the second leg in France.
It's been some season for Ibrahimovic who arrived at Old Trafford last summer on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain. His hat-trick was the 17th of his illustrious career and his tally of goals now stands at 23 for the campaign and there should be plenty to come in the remaining months of the season.
"It feels good," he said when asked how it felt to net his second European treble. "I think the most important thing is that we're taking a good result with us to the second leg. We did OK, we can do more but we created chances and I scored three goals which is also important, so thanks to my team-mates."
For poor Saint-Etienne, the sight of Ibrahimovic must leave them sick to their souls. It's the third time he's scored three goals in a match against them, and the Swede acknowledged they're one of his favourites sides.
"Every time I've played against Saint Etienne, with luck or with a good performance, there have been a couple of goals," he said. "This isn't something that I focus on. I've scored a some goals tonight and hopefully I can do something next week too. We want to go further in the Europa League."
Ibrahimovic's first came on 15 minutes when a free-kick took a deflection to leave Stephane Ruffier stranded in the visitors' goals. His second on 75 minutes owed much to Marcus Rashford, who provided his teammate with a simple tap-in, and the hat-trick came courtesy of a penalty two minutes from time after Rashford had been impeded.
"We are winning but, in a short time, everything can change," said Ibrahimovic. "It's important to keep on going, keep working hard, keep getting the wins we need and keep the confidence. Everything can change quickly, but we're happy at the moment and working hard. This is the decisive moment for the season, the second half of the season is the one that decides what will happen."
United manager Jose Mourinho had no complaints with the comfortable victory but warned his players against complacency ahead of next week' return leg, "It wasn't the perfect game because we still lost the ball too often but it was better. The tie is not over but it is a good result."