Europa League last 32 first leg, Old Trafford – Manchester United 3 (Ibrahimovic 15, 75, 88 pen) Saint-Etienne 0
Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted his first Manchester United hat-trick as Jose Mourinho’s side closed on a spot in the Europa League last 16 with a 3-0 win over Saint-Etienne.
The Swede scored a deflected free-kick, a tap-in and a penalty as Paul Pogba claimed family bragging rights over his brother Florentin.
Somewhat against the run of play, Ibrahimovic netted his 21st goal of the season in fortunate circumstances to break the deadlock 15 minutes in, after his low free-kick hit the wall and trickled home.
Les Verts will have felt aggrieved to have gone in behind at half time, but their profligacy in front of goal – having not hit the target from 11 efforts – was a particular cause for frustration.
The second half saw United regain control, and found a deserved second through Ibrahimovic in the 75th minute, before the 35-year-old converted a late penalty to complete his treble. That is now 17 career goals against The Greens for Ibrahimovic, more than he has netted against any other side.
Does the scoreline flatter United somewhat? Going into next week’s return leg, United are firmly in command, but had the visitors made their first-half pressure count, this encounter could have an altogether different complexion. United showed their quality in the second half, but Saint-Etienne had more than enough chances to at least grab one goal. In fact, Sergio Romero went largely untroubled. A real opportunity missed by the French side.
Anthony Martial: It has been tough for the France international this season, with Jose Mourinho openly critical of what he has seen so far from the 21-year-old. Whether Martial is trying to prove a point or not, he has been scintillating in the last week. Jeremy Malcuit will still be seeing stars after this encounter, as Martial glided past him at will all evening. All the performance lacked was a goal.
Manchester United: Romero 6, Bailly 5, Blind 7, Valencia 6, Smalling 6, Herrera 6, Fellaini 5, Pogba 8, Martial 9, Mata 7, Ibrahimovic 9. Subs: Lingard 7, Young N/A, Rashford 7.
St Etienne: Ruffier 7, Theophile-Catherine 6, Pajot 6, Saviet 6, Veretout 5, Pogba 5, Hamouma 7, Monnet-Paquet 6, Perrin 7, Malcuit 5, Intima 5. Subs: Selnaes 6, Roux 6, Beric 6.
15’ - GOAL! United 1-0 St Etienne. It is him again, but it isn't pretty as Ibrahimovic's effort is deflected home. 21 for the season, but that is now 15 goals against Les Verts for the Swede. Ibrahimovic waited for the wall to jump, the low drive clipped the heel of Vincent Pajot and trickled over the line, with Ruffier having gone the other way.
31 ‘- WHAT A MISS! Brilliant from Martial as he carries the ball forward at pace, drives past two men, but is denied by the feet of Ruffier, the ball breaking to Ibrahimovic six yards out, but the Swede can't sort himself out and his finish loops onto the roof of the net. Oh dear!
54' - SAVE! Superb from Martial as he glides past his man like he isn't there, gets the shot away, but Ruffier does really well to block. A yard either side and that's a goal. Great play from the France International.
62' - CLOSE! Magnificent from Pogba, as he spins past Vertout, curls at goal, but the ball just flies wide. Really was a superb piece of skill to make space for the shot.
69' - WOODWORK! Blind flights a perfect free-kick into the middle, right onto the head of Pogba, but the record signing heads onto the crossbar from point-blank range. Should score.
75' - CLOSE! As close as the visitors have come. Great pass by Selnaes into the path of fellow substitute Roux, who tries to chip Romero but finds the roof of the net.
75' - GOAL! United 2-0 St Etienne. Him again! Ibrahimovic is on hand to tap home United's second. All about the run from Rashford, as he dashed to the byline, past several markers, pulls it back, Ruffier gets a touch onto a defender, the ball lands at the feet of the Swede, who has the simple task of slotting the ball into an empty net.
87' - PENALTY TO UNITED! Ibrahimovic takes a tumble under challenge from Kevin Theophile-Catherine.
88' - GOAL! United 3-0 St Etienne. Game over. Ibrahimovic gets up to take it himself, and fires into the bottom corner to complete his hat-trick. The penalty award was soft to say the least.
The Red Devils won three consecutive European games without conceding a goal for the first time since November 2010 under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his first Manchester United hat-trick. It was his third against St Etienne in his career.
It was only Ibrahimovic’s second hat-trick in European competition, having hit four for PSG against Anderlecht in October 2013.