Today in Manchester United’s Europa League knockout match against Saint-Étienne, Zlatan Ibrahimović scored about the most unremarkable hat trick you’re likely to see. A poorly taken free kick that deflected in, a tap-in off a rebound, and a penalty. But the goals, bland as they were, aren’t the point. The point is Zlatan’s swaggering chillness after he scores, and the way he welcomes his United teammates into his arms as if they were adoring children climbing onto daddy’s shoulders.
Here’s the weak free kick, which Zlatan celebrates by just standing there, arms splayed wide, staring off into the distance. Then, the cherubic Ander Herrera hops into his arms, like an overjoyed kid seeing his dad for the first time after a week-long work trip:
After flipping his second goal into the net, Zlatan again just stands there with his arms stretched wide. Herrera and Jesse Lingard come in for a cuddle. Ibrahimović gently cups both boys’ heads into his enormous hands and pulls them close to his chest, as if to say “Don’t worry, my frightened children, I’m here now; nothing can hurt you”:
Before Ibrahimović’s shot from the penalty spot had even gone in, the big Swede already began unfurl his arms to, you guessed it, thrust them out in a Christ-like pose. And again, his teammates ran into those big, loving, protecting arms of his:
Zlatan, who at 35 years old is very nearly old enough to be some of his teammates’ father, is basically all of his teammates’ father. And he seems like a good dad.