The striker continued his fine run of form in front of goal as Jose Mourinho’s men secured victory in the Europa League at Old Trafford
Manchester United claimed a 3-0 win over Saint-Etienne in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie thanks to a first hat-trick for the club from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The striker’s deflected free-kick after quarter of an hour and a second-half double were enough to give the home side an important if not wholly convincing victory at Old Trafford.
The match – which saw brothers Paul and Florentin Pogba face one another for the first time competitively – was United’s first of four in only 10 days, but manager Jose Mourinho nonetheless named a strong side in an effort to take control of the tie.
Ibrahimovic duly obliged with the opening goal after 15 minutes – his 21st of the season in all competitions – but Saint-Etienne looked a real threat for much of the first half against a United side that seemed strangely imbalanced and out-of-sorts.
Mourinho responded with a tactical tweak after the break and the home side soon began to assume control of proceedings, although Ibrahimovic saw a second goal disallowed and Anthony Martial missed a good chance of his own to double the lead.
Paul Pogba hit the crossbar before Nolan Roux wasted a glorious opportunity for a vital away goal, but Ibrahimovic added a second from close range before adding a late third from the penalty spot to make certain of the win and give United a strong chance of progressing to the last 16.
United started shakily but a huge slice of luck saw them take the lead. Ibrahimovic’s free-kick from the edge of the area struck the base of the Saint-Etienne wall and trickled beyond the wrong-footed Stephane Ruffier and into the net.