The Swede has had a mixed history of goals and red cards against Les Verts and last night he was Manchester United’s Europa League saviour with a hat-trick.
He took his tally to 17 goals in 14 games against the French club – although he first was shrouded in controversy and will not be one he will have been rushing home to watch again on DVD.
Ibrahimovic used all his experience to win the free-kick in the first place.
He then struck a poor shot into the wall but it deflected off Vincent Pajot in the wall and with keeper Stephane Rouffier wrong-footed the ball trickled over the line despite the valiant attempts of Loic Perrin to clear.
There was also a suggestion that Anthony Martial had got a touch. And if he had been credited with the goal it would have triggered an £8m bonus payment to Monaco for his 25th goal for United.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted a hat-trick against St Ettiene
Much of the pre-match build up was focused on the Pogba brothers facing off
Just as United looked as if they would be taking only a one-goal lead into the second leg, Ibrahimovic tapped in the second after sub Marcus Rashford’s corssed had been parried by keeper Stephane Rouffier.
Martial certainly deserved a goal after continuing the good form he showed against Watford at the weekend.
Three times he was denied by Rouffier who also denied Juan Mata as United toikled to build on their early lead.
Paul Pogba outshone brother Forentin and went close twice – he was just wide with one curling effort and then struck the bar with a header.
But St Etienne showed why they have the second best defence in the French top flight with a dogged defensive display. And in the first half especially they caused United plenty of anxious moments.
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Thu, February 16, 2017
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Express Sport brings you Manchester United player ratings against Saint Etienne
The game kicked off with smoke swirling around the pitch from a number of flares left off by the vociferous St Etienne fans – an incident that will certainly lead to a UEFA sanctions against the French club, although it does pose questions how they were smuggled through the security checks.
The smoke clearly got into Eric Bailly’s eyes because he got into a mix-up with Ander Herrera that nearly gifted the French visitors an early lead.
Romain Hamouma intercepted Baily’s under hit back pass but in taking the ball round Romero he was driven too wide and when he cut the ball back Daley Blind was on hand to clear.
Mourinho urged his players to calm down but “Les Verts” looked a well-organised outfit that underlined why they boast the second best defence in Ligue One.
Anthony Martial continued his good form from the win over Watford at the weekend against a team who share a bitter rivalry with Lyon, his first club. Martial twice had shots saved by Stephane Rouffier but United got lucky when they took the lead after 15 minutes.
Jose Mourinho's side take a commanding 3-0 lead into the second leg
Ibrahimovic conned the referee into awarding him a free-kick just outside the area when he took a dive as Jordan Veretout’s challenge.
And he enjoyed even more good fortune when his poor free-kick deflected off Vincent Pajot in the wall and, with keeper Rouffier wrong-footed, the ball trickled over the line despite the valiant attempts of skipper Loic Perrin to hack the ball clear.
Far from being deflated by the goal, St Etienne responded positively and created a number of chances to be level before the break.
Henri Saivet shot wide from the best opening and despite their lead United looked pretty ragged with Mourinho growing increasing frustrated with their failure to impose any control on the game.
If the first half had been eventful, the start of the secondhalf continued in the same vein. Martial was booked for swining his arm back into the face of Kevion Maicuit who needed treatment.
While he was off the pitch, Ibrahimovic had a ‘goal’ disallowed but he was clearly a yard offside when he headed in Mata’s cross.
Perrin came off in a clash of heads with Smallling and needed treatment. And he was still coming to his senses when Martial burst through and was denied for the third time by Rouffier.
But Ibrahimovic would not be denied as he gave United a much healthier cushion for the second leg by completing his first treble for United in the 87th minute with a penalty after he went to ground under minimal contact from Kevin Theophile-Catherine.
He sent keeper Rouffier the wrong way from the spot and Mourinho will be breathing much more easily for the return.