Manchester United cut the gap at the top of the table to 12 points with a convincing 3-0 victory over Premier League strugglers Stoke at Old Trafford on Monday.
Manchester United 3 Stoke City 0
- Valencia gives United early lead
- Fine Martial strike makes it 2-0
- Lukaku on target in second half
- Diouf misses late chance for Potters
Jose Mourinho’s side scored two quality goals in the first half through Antonio Valencia and Anthony Martial to take command of proceedings in the pouring rain, although the Potters had chances to get back into the contest before the break.
Romelu Lukaku sealed the win in the second half with another clinical finish as United closed to within 12 points of league leaders Manchester City.
New Potters boss Paul Lambert was watching from the stands and he would not have enjoyed the start by his team after they conceded nine minutes into the match.
Valencia was given too much space on the right from Paul Pogba’s pass and he cut inside before curling a left-footed shot into the left corner of the net from 16 yards out.
Xherdan Shaqiri looked to respond for the visitors with a spectacular overhead-kick from inside the area on the right that was caught by David De Gea at his near post on 11 minutes following Darren Fletcher’s floated cross.
Stephen Ireland was then presented with a good chance six minutes later when he was picked out in space by Moritz Bauer, but the midfielder scuffed his shot well wide of the left post from 15 yards out, while Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting fired straight at De Gea in the 21st minute after cutting inside from the left.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 15, 2018
Ireland passed up another gilt-edged opportunity moments later as he missed the target once more having been teed up inside the box by Shaqiri, while Choupo-Moting saw his effort deflected wide of goal from Peter Crouch’s knockdown on 25 minutes.
The hosts went up the other end and Martial cleared the crossbar by some distance with a hopeful strike from 30 yards out, before Luke Shaw drew a comfortable save out of Jack Butland with another long-range effort on 29 minutes.
However, Martial found his range nine minutes later as he curled a first-time shot into the left corner of the net from 19 yards out after Pogba found him with a square pass.
The Frenchman could have had another goal just before half-time, but he failed to keep his shot down from 20 yards out after Nemanja Matic slipped him in, with Shaqiri going close at the other end in stoppage time as he brought the ball under control on the edge of the box and got off a low shot that De Gea kept out at full stretch.
Butland was alert to the danger when Kurt Zouma gifted the ball to Pogba, who released Martial, but the keeper raced off his line to deny the forward the chance to shoot with a sliding challenge five minutes after the restart.
Butland was fortunate to see Lukaku’s drive on the turn go straight to him four minutes later and the shot-stopper denied Martial from six yards out just before the hour mark following another precise pass from Pogba to pick out his compatriot.
A swift counter from United on 62 minutes saw Lukaku charge down the left and slip the ball to Jesse Lingard, who fed Juan Mata on the right, but the Spaniard’s low effort went just wide of the left post, and he skied an even better three minutes later after being teed up by Lingard 14 yards out.
Lukaku forced Butland into a save with an angled strike on the right in the 66th minute, but the Belgian striker had the beating of the England keeper six minutes later as he showed good strength to hold off his marker from Martial’s firm pass to crash a shot inside the left post from 12 yards out.
Butland pulled off a sharp reaction save to prevent Marcus Rashford from scoring with a flick at the near post from Valencia’s low cross in the 84th minute, and Mame Biram Diouf missed the chance to grab a consolation goal two minutes later when he failed to beat De Gea from 10 yards out before hitting the side-netting on the rebound.