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Ibrahimovic does the trick for Reds

Man United 3 St Etienne 0

By Simon Peach

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has urged Manchester United to keep their focus for the "decisive moment" of their season after they took control of their Europa League last-32 tie against St Etienne.

The former Sweden striker scored a hat-trick to seal a 3-0 victory in the first leg at Old Trafford to leave United within touching distance of the last 16.

The Red Devils face Blackburn in the FA Cup on Sunday before the return leg in France next Wednesday, which precedes the EFL Cup final against Southampton on February 26.

Jose Mourinho's side are also chasing a top-four place in the Premier League and Ibrahimovic is keen to keep up the momentum after losing just once in 23 games.

Ibrahimovic said: "We're winning (but) in a short time everything can change so it's important to keep working hard, get the wins we need and keep the confidence.

"We're happy at the moment. This is the decisive moment of the season and the second half of the season is the one which decides what will happen.

"That's the objective (to keep fighting on four fronts). We're still in four (competitions), if we don't win the Premier League we could get some other trophies and that's good also."

United survived a couple of early scares emanating from Eric Bailly errors and took the lead on 15 minutes courtesy of Ibrahimovic's deflected free-kick.

The hosts had plenty of chances to add a second, notably when Juan Mata volleyed straight at Stephane Ruffier and Paul Pogba headed against the bar midway through the second half.

The French side had chances of their own with Henri Saivet shooting just wide and Romain Hamouma firing over in the first half, while Nolan Roux almost levelled on 73 minutes with a delicate chip.

United, though, doubled their lead moments later when Ibrahimovic tapped home after fine work from substitute Marcus Rashford.

Ibrahimovic then dusted himself down to complete his first hat-trick for United with a penalty two minutes from time.

"We created good chances," added Ibrahimovic. "It was important to get a good win at home and we bring it with us for the second leg.

"It was a good game, we played well collectively. I think we can do much more but we won the game and that's the most important (thing)."

The world's most expensive player, Paul Pogba, was up against his brother Florentin, who was signed by the French side for €500,000 in 2012.

Mother Yeo and third brother Mathias watched from the stands as the two shared a warm embrace before kick-off, with the elder sibling Florentin sporting a No.19 on one side of his head and his brother's No.6 on the other.

Paul Pogba said: "It is something very magical, it does not happen every day and I really enjoyed playing against my brother."

Mourinho said: "Our concentration was not there in the first half.

"We started making dangerous mistakes at the back, were slow in the build-up and had no movement in attack. We were lucky to be winning at half-time.

"In the second half the story changed.

"We were faster. It wasn't the perfect game because we still lost the ball too often but it was better. The tie is not over but it is a good result."

Man Utd: Romero, Valencia, Smalling,Bailly, Blind, Mata (Rashford 70), Ander Herrera, Fellaini (Lingard 46), Martial (Young 84), Pogba, Ibrahimovic. Subs not used: De Gea, Rojo, Schweinsteiger, Darmian.

St Etienne: Ruffier, Malcuit, Perrin, Theophile-Catherine, Pogba (Beric 79), Jorginho (Roux 65), Veretout, Pajot (Selnaes 72), Monnet-Paquet,Saivet, Hamouma. Not used: Moulin, Lacroix, Lemoine, Pierre Gabriel.

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