Man United take comfortable lead to France with Zlatan Ibrahimovic netting his first hat-trick for Manchester United as they defeated St Etienne in the first leg of the Europa league round of 32 stage.

Questions were raised over the signing of the 35-year-old veteran striker on a free transfer from Paris St-Germain in the summer, but the Swede has responded perfectly by taking his tally to 23 goals for the season.

Ibrahimovic’s deflected first-half free-kick which wrong-footed goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier and dribbled over the line put United ahead after 15 minutes. He had a header ruled out for offside before he tapped home from close range for his second goal and added a penalty late into the game.

The match saw brothers Paul and Florentin Pogba face one another for the first time competitively but Ibrahimovic stole show with his hat-trick.

The former Inter Milan, Barcelona and AC Milan forward has now netted 17 career hat-tricks. It was his second in European competition and his third against Saint-Etienne. He has now scored 17 scored times against the Ligue 1 side.

Manchester United have now won three consecutive European games without conceding a goal for the first time since November 2010 under Sir Alex Ferguson.

With the Red Devils struggling to break into the top four in the Premier League, winning the Europa league may well be the their best route into next season’s Champions League as the winners get an automatic place in the Europe elite competition.

After winning their first game of four in ten days, United face a tricky Sunday’s trip to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup and also have a League Cup final to look forward to against Southampton at Wembley on the following Sunday with second leg of the Europa League sandwiched in between.