Manchester United 3-0 Saint Etienne: Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores hat-trick to put United in control
By Patrick Surlis
Last Updated: 17/02/17 6:31am
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat-trick as Manchester United beat St Etienne 3-0 on Thursday to take control of their Europa League last-32 tie.
The Swedish forward, who has scored more goals against St Etienne than any other team, enjoyed another profitable evening against the Ligue 1 side, opening the scoring with a deflected free-kick on 15 minutes.
He tapped home his second from close range with 15 minutes to go and sealed his treble - the 17th of his career - from the penalty spot (88) after he was fouled by Kevin Theophile-Catherine.
With all eyes on the Pogba brothers, playing against each other for the first time in competitive football, Ibrahimovic stole the show, taking his record against St Etienne to 17 goals in 14 appearances.
The result puts United in a strong position to advance to the last-16 of the Europa League ahead of the return leg in France next Wednesday.
Jose Mourinho named a strong team, making two changes from their victory over Watford as Paul Pogba lined up against older brother Florentin.
The St Etienne left-back was part of an unchanged XI for Christophe Galtier and the French side almost capitalised on a sloppy United start inside three minutes.
Eric Bailly's blind backpass presented an opening to Romain Hamouma but with Sergio Romero out of position the forward failed to find a team-mate.
Instead, the hosts took the lead thanks to a huge slice of fortune when Ibrahimovic's free-kick, awarded for a questionable foul on the Swede, clipped Vincent Pajot in the wall and wrong-footed Stephane Ruffier.
In an open first half the two sides then traded chances as Ruffier, impressive in goal for the visitors, made smart stops from Juan Mata and Anthony Martial.
But St Etienne forced the majority of opportunities as half-time approached, ending the half with 11 shots on goal, the most by an opponent at Old Trafford since Athletic Bilbao had 13 in March 2013.
They were denied a penalty when Daley Blind tangled with Jorginho and went close through the lively Hamouma and Newcastle loanee Henri Saivet.
Despite fading after the break, the visitors had a fantastic chance to equalise before Ibrahimovic's second.
Ole Selnaes picked out fellow substitute Nolan Roux but the forward could only lift his effort over the bar with Romero to beat.
United swiftly took advantage when Ibrahimovic tapped in from close range after fine work by Marcus Rashford.
And the former Paris Saint-Germain forward, who also saw a header correctly ruled out for offside, sealed his hat-trick from the penalty spot with two minutes to play.
He went to ground under Theophile-Catherine's soft challenge and picked himself up to send Ruffier the wrong way from 12 yards.
It capped an impressive second half by the hosts, who also hit the woodwork through Pogba, setting them up for the second leg in St Etienne next week.