- Manchester United beats French side Saint Ettiene 3-0 in the Europa league.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores a hatrick.
- United in full control ahead of return leg.
Manchester United shine as they face off with Saint-Étienne in the Europa League Thursday night with a 3-0 win. The Red Devils appear to be the only English club to be successful in this week after Arsenal lost to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League.
If Manchester United is to return to the Champions League next season they have to pull up their socks in the premier league to at least come in fourth to be able to qualify. However they are likely to owe a considerable debt of gratitude to Zlatan_Ibrahimović. Ibrahimovic’s hat-trick, his 21st, 22nd and 23rd goals of an impressive debut season in England, put United in firm control of this Round of 32 tie ahead of Wednesday’s second leg in France and once again underlined the 35 year-old’s importance to the club’s hopes this term.
No wonder José_Mourinho has conceded it would be a “disaster” to lose the Swede to injury. To put his goal scoring exploits into context, no other United player has yet to reach double figures. While Anthony Martial appears to be coming to the boil again and Marcus Rashford came off the substitutes’ bench to set up United’s second goal moments after Nolan Roux, a Saint-Etienne substitute, fluffed a glorious opportunity to equalize, the dependence on Ibrahimovic is clear.
Christophe Galtier, the St Etienne coach, felt Ibrahimovic was lucky to win fouls from which he claimed his first goal with a deflected free-kick and third from the penalty spot, but when the margins are tight the big players make the difference, and so it proved here. The game was a lot closer than the score line suggested and Mourinho was the first to acknowledge that United were as lucky as they were relieved to depart for the interval sporting a 1-0 lead.
He had sensed his players were in for a ropey first period judging by the mood in the dressing room and warm-up before kick-off, and while there was a reaction to Mourinho’s half-time rollicking, the Portuguese warned his players that they would have to show much greater focus from the last 16 if the Europa League is to remain a viable alternative route into the Champions League.
“The first half we played so bad and managed to finish it winning 1-0 when we didn’t deserve to; It was down to a lack of concentration. I had the feeling immediately in the dressing room – too noisy, too funny, too relaxed. My assistants had the feeling in the warm-up with some of the guys not really focused, not having the right adrenaline in their bodies.When you don’t have that concentration it’s hard to recover it and even on the touchline I felt communicating was difficult. We needed half time.” said the United Manager.
“This is the decisive moment of the season; in a short time everything can change so it is important to keep working hard, get the wins we need and keep the confidence.” Ibrahimovic said.