Man Utd Brush Aside Stoke
Manchester United reduced Manchester City’s lead at the top of the Premier league to 12 points with a convincing 3-0 win over Stoke City at Old Trafford on Monday night.
The first talking point came in the seventh minute, when Anthony Martial went down in the penalty area, claiming to have been fouled by Moritz Bauer. The right-back had his arms all over the United star, but referee Anthony Taylor was unmoved.
However, the Red Devils were undeterred and Antonio Valencia opened the scoring two minutes later. After cutting in from the right, the Ecuadorian curled a screamer of a shot into the top corner with his weaker left foot.
Stoke refused to roll over, with Stephen Ireland in particular causing problems for José Mourinho’s defence with his perfectly-timed runs.
The Potters squandered a glorious chance in the 25th minute, when Peter Crouch rose above David de Gea to head the ball across to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. However, the Cameroonian’s shot was blocked by Phil Jones.
The visitors were made to pay 13 minutes later, when Martial curled a stunner past Jack Butland with his first touch after receiving a pass from Paul Pogba just outside the box.
On the stroke of half-time, de Gea made a fine save to deny Xherdan Shaqiri, getting down low to keep his shot out and preserve the two-goal margin.
Stoke struggled to find their rhythm after the break, with their momentum from prior to Martial’s goal having deserted them.
The Frenchman could have had a second in the 60th minute, but was denied from close range by Butland.
Butland made another good stop six minutes later, sticking out a leg to deny Romelu Lukaku. Juan Mata then put the ball in the net, turning it in from close range following Jesse Lingard’s rebound strike, but was denied by the offside flag.
In the 72nd minute, United finally bagged their third goal. Martial picked out Lukaku with a lobbed pass forward into the box. The Belgian did well to control the ball under pressure and send it past Butland, although there was a hint of a possible handball from him in the process.
Stoke were once again saved by Butland with six minutes plus stoppage time to go, as he reacted quickly to deny Marcus Rashford from close range.
The goalkeeper managed to keep the scoreline respectable for Stoke, but they were outplayed for most of the game by the resurgent Red Devils — who might just begin to dream of a title challenge now that their local rivals, Manchester City, have finally shown signs of fallibility.