Manchester United 3-0 Stoke City: United maintain top-four push
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 03/02/16 8:18am
Manchester United maintained their push for the Champions League places with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Stoke City at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
Jesse Lingard's 14th-minute header set the hosts on their way before Anthony Martial underscored United's superiority with a superb second on 23 minutes.
Wayne Rooney's strike eight minutes after the interval all-but ended the game as a contest as United coasted to a timely, and morale-boosting, victory in front of an appreciative home crowd.
Stoke, meanwhile, missed the chance to complete a first Premier League double over United as Mark Hughes' side, fresh consecutive cup exits, struggled to replicate the form which saw them run out convincing winners on Boxing Day.
The result sees United remain fifth the Premier League, five points adrift of Arsenal in fourth and 10 behind leaders Leicester. Stoke remain ninth.
The day before kick-off, Manchester United fans had to come to terms with the news that Pep Guardiola was set to take over as manager at Manchester City in the summer.
However, immediately before the game, there was an air of reflection at Old Trafford as United marked the 58th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster with a moving tribute.
Stoke headed into the game having suffered penalty shoot-out heartache in the Capital One Cup before being eliminated from the FA Cup, so many would have backed this game to live up to the drab affairs which have graced Old Trafford many a time this season.
However, United raced out of the traps, reverting back to their fluent, attacking best to race into a commanding lead as Lingard got on the end of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson's whipped delivery to head home from close range.
It should have been two shortly after as Martial rifled the ball into the side-netting from close range, but the Frenchman was not to be denied as United were two up before the 25-minute mark.
Juan Mata and Rooney combined brilliantly on the counter to set up Martial who took one touch to control before unerringly whipping the ball high past the stricken Jack Butland.
That strike was the first time United had scored twice in the first half of a Premier League game at Old Trafford since April 2015.
Phillippe Wollscheid joined the Potters' mounting injury list on the half-hour mark but his replacement, Phil Bardsley, did well in shoring up the visitors' backline as Ibrahim Afellay went close with two efforts before the interval.
United then missed the chance to put the game beyond Stoke's reach when Mata inexcusably headed Matteo Darmian's cross wide from six yards.
Stoke looked to make the most of their reprieve from Mata's miss and started the second half well but it was United who got the important next goal.
Moments after having an effort disallowed for a foul on Glen Johnson, Rooney rounded off a vintage United counter, turning Martial's low cross into the back of the net on 53 minutes.
And from that point on it was damage limitation for Stoke, with only United substitute Memphis Depay coming close to adding to United's commanding lead.
Man Utd: De Gea (6), Darmian (6), Smalling (7), Blind (7), Borthwick-Jackson (7), Carrick (7), Fellaini (6), Lingard (7), Mata (7), Martial (9), Rooney (8).
Used subs: Depay (5), Ander Herrera (6), Andreas Pereira (5).
Stoke City: Butland (6), Johnson (5), Wollscheid (5), Muniesa (6), Pieters (7), Whelan (5), Afellay (6), Walters (6), Krkic (5), Arnautovic (6), Crouch (5).
Used subs: Bardsley (7), Ireland (5).
Man of the Match: Anthony Martial.