Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted his first hat-trick for Manchester United in their 3-0 win against Saint-Etienne in the first leg of their round-of-32 clash at Old Trafford on Thursday. With this, Ibrahimovic took his season goal tally to 22, with more than three months left. Ibra now has as many hat-tricks for United as a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. Not bad for a 35-year-old who came on a free transfer, right? In his typical style, Zlatan also went on to call himself “Indiana Jones” after the match.
However, in spite of the hat-trick, Ibrahimovic was far from being United’s best player of the evening. It was Anthony Martial who deserved at least one, if not three goals to his name. In fact, Ibrahimovic probably scored the luckiest hat-trick in the club’s history. His three goals came via a deflection, a tap-in and a penalty.
Hard as it is to believe, Zlatan is not the first player to get lucky to score three times in the same match. Here are some other contenders for the luckiest hat-trick in professional football.
Dirk Kuyt, Liverpool vs Manchester United, 2011
It was March 2011 and table toppers Manchester United were visiting Anfield following a defeat at Chelsea. Title rivals Arsenal had failed to get three points against Sunderland that weekend and it was a great chance for Sir Alex Ferguson’s team to stretch their lead at the top to six points.
However, what transpired was a second successive defeat as Dirk Kuyt scored the first hat-trick by a Liverpool player against Manchester United since Peter Beardsley in 1990. While that is a nice piece of trivia, Kuyt’s effort was by no means the stuff of legend. A certain Uruguayan named Luis Suarez was the chief architect of that 3-1 win.
Samuel Eto’o, Chelsea vs Manchester United, 2014
Samuel Eto’o hammered in the final nail to the coffin that was Manchester United’s title defence as early as January when he produced a triplet at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea in a 3-1 thrashing. David Moyes’s United, who were struggling to cope up with life after Ferguson, were hapless in the match, which saw captain Nemanja Vidic being sent off as well.
Eto’o’s first strike looked like a wonderful left-footed curler from outside the box, but replays showed the ball had taken a deflection off Michael Carrick’s lunging foot before beating goalkeeper David De Gea. The Cameroonian striker’s second goal came via a side-footed tap-in, albeit well-placed one to beat De Gea, following a great low cross from Gary Cahill. The English defender should have had his name on the scoresheet in the second half when he headed the ball goalwards off a corner, but De Gea saved it, only for Eto’o to tap in the rebound.
Andrei Kanchelskis, Manchester United vs Manchester City, 1994
Scoring a hat-trick in a derby match is the stuff of dreams and Manchester United winger Andrei Kanchelskis lived it in a memorable night for the Reds at Old Trafford in the 1994-’95 season. Kanchelskis scored a treble in United’s 5-0 win over their neighbours and arch-rivals on what Niall Quinn, the stand-in City captain, described as his “worst night in football”.
Kanchelskis’s first goal was a low left-footed shot into the net, but replays showed the ball took a massive deflection off a City defender, which wrong-footed the ‘keeper, Simon Tracey. The Russian’s second goal of the night was a tap-in into an empty goal after Tracey had come forward to try and grab the ball off Kanchelskis’s feet. The United winger skipped past the lunging ’keeper before gently tapping the ball in. Okay, it wasn’t that lucky.
Kanchelskis’s third also came in almost similar fashion after he received the ball from Eric Cantona on the flank and shot, only for it to be blocked by Tracey. However, Kanchelskis collected the rebound and lobbed it over the ’keeper into an empty net to complete his treble. Cantona and Mark Hughes were the other two scorers in the game.