Manchester United closed the gap between themselves and Premier League leaders Manchester City to 12 points with a 3-0 win over struggling Stoke City at Old Trafford.
Manchester City were beaten in the top flight for the first time this season on Sunday, 4-3 at Liverpool, and United’s victory, along with reports they are set to sign Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez at the expense
of their neighbours, means there is a fleeting instance this term of the bragging rights residing on the red side of town.
Butland rushed out early in the second period to thwart Martial, by which point Stoke’s resolve seemed to have dissipated.
The ex-Monaco youngster should have had a second before the hour when he bundled between Kevin Wimmer and Bruno Martins Indi to sidefoot at Butland from close range.
Under pressure from Jesse Lingard, Zouma then sold Darren Fletcher short with an awful pass and Lukaku scampered towards goal, with the ball finding Mata via Lingard.
The Spanish playmaker threaded the ball narrowly wide of Butland’s far post and chose to forgo precision for power when he lashed over the bar in the 65th minute.
It remained for Lukaku to offer a timely reminder of his centre-forward qualities, taking down a drilled pass from Martial to muscularly turn and finish with aplomb.
Marcus Rashford came off a bench lacking rumoured Sanchez makeweight Henrikh Mkhitaryan to test Butland with a deft backheel, while fellow substitute Mame Biram Diouf fired into the side-netting after De Gea saved to crown Stoke’s misery.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Manchester United starting XI: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Shaw, Pogba, Matic, Mata, Lingard, Martial, Lukaku.
Subs: Fellaini, Rashford, McTominay
Booked: Lingard, Lukaku
Goals: Valencia, Martial, Lukaku
Coach: Jose Mourinho
Stoke City starting XI: Butland, Bauer, Zouma, Martins Indi, Tymon, Fletcher, Shaqiri, Allen, Ireland, Choupo-Moting, Crouch
Subs: Wimmer, Sobhi, Diouf
Booked: S. Ireland
Referee: Anthony Taylor