The build-up to Manchester United’s Europa League clash with Saint-Etienne centred around the battle between two brothers; Red Devils’ record signing Paul Pogba vs. his older sibling, Florentin.
But it was another Hollywood summer signing who took the headlines, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, netting the first hat-trick of his short but decisively potent Old Trafford career.
Indeed, Jose Mourinho criticised his players for a lack of concentration and focus following the 3-0 victory, claiming they were lacklustre in the warm-up and struggled to get going in front of the United faithful.
“My assistants had the feeling in the warm-up with some of the guys not really focused, not the right adrenaline in their bodies. The game started and the first thing we did was a back pass [by Eric Bailly] to the striker and one-to-one with Sergio [Romero]. When you don’t have concentration it’s hard to recover it. Even on the touchline I felt the communication was difficult so we needed half-time. The second half was a different story, a different result.”
But that accusation surely can’t be pinned to Zlatan, who more than held up his end of the bargain with a dominant and imperious display.
Indeed, as our infographic shows, Ibrahimovic scored three goals from his three shots on target, but made key contributions in other aspects as well. He also laid on three scoring chances for his team-mates, none of which were converted, won three aerial duels and even chipped in at the other end of the pitch – blocking a Saint Etienne shot.
Perhaps Mourinho can query the seriousness in which some of his players approached the match, but Ibrahimovic certainly delivered on the world-class quality we all know he has.