Zlatan Ibrahimović said "I am like Indiana Jones" after his hat-trick in Manchester United's defeat of Saint-Étienne put him a step closer to a first European trophy.
If a first hat-trick under the Old Trafford lights were not enough evidence of Zlatan Ibrahimović’s box-office appeal, the Swede underlined the point afterwards with five simple words: "I am like Indiana Jones."
It was his response to a question about chasing prizes – in his case, the European silverware that has always eluded him – and in scoring three goals to put Manchester United firmly in control of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie against Saint-Étienne, he has taken another step towards that target. It might not quite be a last crusade but it would certainly be a sweet prize for a footballer whose website lists 31 club honours won, but none of the European variety.
"Every trophy for me is incredible, everywhere I've been I've won, so if I can win something here I will be super happy," he said. "People that know me know that I've played for many clubs and I try to do my best. Wherever I've went I've won, so I am like Indiana Jones."
At 35, he has become the leading man at Old Trafford, his first United treble taking him on to 23 goals in his debut season in England. It was not the most spectacular hat-trick – a deflected free-kick, a tap-in and a penalty – but as he said of the first of his goals, which barely trickled over the line, "the important thing is it went in".
If the 3-0 scoreline flattered United, given the number of opportunities a profligate St-Étienne created, the good news is United's attacking game is increasingly flourishing, with Anthony Martial, in particular, producing another lively showing alongside him.
It was Ibrahimović, though, who walked away with the match ball. "It feels good," he said. "I got a lot of help from my team-mates [and] it was important to get a good result so we can take it into the second leg. We won 3-0 and I got to score the three goals so I am happy for that. We have still many games to play so hopefully I can continue like I am doing."
St-Étienne's fans could be forgiven for dreading the prospect of him turning up at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard for the second leg with United 3-0 up – after all, this footballing Indiana Jones really does crack the whip when it comes to Les Verts, the former Paris Saint-Germain striker having accumulated 17 goals in 14 games against them.
"I don't focus on specific opponents," he said. "I just try to do my job, try to do what I am good at." According to defender Chris Smalling, he is more than just good. "He gives everyone a boost. He is somebody who backs himself on that pitch and even in training sessions he doesn't like to lose. That rubs off on to us and he's a real talisman for us, and our go-to man for goals, especially this season.
"He's full of charisma, he's full of jokes," added Smalling. "A lot of people see a serious guy, but in our dressing room he's one of the jokers." A wise-cracking man of action – just like Indy.