Swede striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Thursday scored a hat-trick as Manchester United opened up a commanding 3-0 lead in their Europa League last-32 first leg tie against French side Saint-Etienne.
Ibrahimovic’s deflected free-kick wrong-footed goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier and dribbled over the line for the opener, and he tapped in from close range after good work from Marcus Rashford.
He added a late penalty kick as the Jose Mourinho side continued with their fine run in the competition.
Saint-Etienne caused United problems on the break in the first 45 minutes, particularly with Romain Hamouma’s pace, while Henri Saivet and Ole Selnaes both clipped efforts narrowly off target.
Ruffier’s double save denied Juan Mata, and Anthony Martial forced the visiting goalkeeper into sharp saves, while Paul Pogba headed against the crossbar from close range.
The two sides meet for the second leg on Feb. 22
However, it was a gloomy result for England’s other representative as Tottenham lost 0-1 to hosts KAA Gent of Belgium.
Tottenham’s Europa League hopes were dealt a blow after Jeremy Perber’s goal gave Gent a surprise victory in their last-32 first-leg meeting.
French striker Perbet controlled and slotted into the corner from Danijel Milicevic’s pull-back on the hour.
A strong Spurs line-up were poor for most of the evening, although Harry Kane clipped the post after half-time.
Gent, eighth in the Belgian league, almost added a second as Milicevic’s shot was tipped on to the post.
The second leg is at Wembley on Feb. 23.(NAN)