Zlatan Ibrahimovic was naturally delighted to net his first-ever Manchester United hat-trick during Thursday’s 3-0 win over Saint-Etienne, and believes the goals have come at a “decisive moment” in the season.
The Swede struck three times at Old Trafford to take his tally for the season to 23 in all competitions, and give the Reds a significant advantage ahead of next week’s return leg in France.
Speaking after the game to MUTV and BT Sport, Ibrahimovic thanked his team-mates for their part in his treble, and believes United will now be firm favourites to progress to the last 16.
“It feels good,” he said. “I think the most important thing is that we’re taking a good result with us to the second leg. We did okay, we can do more but we created chances and I scored three goals which is also important, so thanks to my team-mates.
“Every time I’ve played against Saint-Etienne, with luck or with a good performance, there have been a couple of goals! This isn’t something that I focus on; I’ve scored a some goals tonight and hopefully I can do something next week too. We want to go further in the Europa League.
“We are winning but, in a short time, everything can change,” he warned. “It’s important to keep on going, keep working hard, keep getting the wins we need and keep the confidence. Everything can change quickly, but we’re happy at the moment and working hard. This is the decisive moment for the season, the second half of the season is the one that decides what will happen.”
Unsurprisingly, Ibrahimovic was voted Man of the Match for his performance, collecting 66 per cent of the fan vote on Twitter, ahead of fellow nominees Paul Pogba (27 per cent) and Eric Bailly (7 per cent).
While the personal accolades keep on coming for United’s top scorer, Zlatan’s focus remains on competing for silverware on all fronts. And he’s under no illusions about the challenges ahead.
“That’s the objective,” he added. “Looking at the Premier League, the first four teams go into the Champions League and one will become a champion. The rest will maybe not win a trophy. We’re still in all four and we won the fifth, the Community Shield, so if we don’t win the Premier League we’ll get some other trophies and that’s also good.
“This is a good result because I know how hard it is to play over there,” he continued, in reference to the second leg in France. “They have a fantastic crowd, fantastic support and the stadium is very nice, the guys will see it when we go there.
“They’re a good team, they always make it difficult for every team they play against. When I was at Paris Saint-Germain, it was the same thing – they were good tonight. I think a couple of their players are new, a couple left, but this is a good team.”