Man United cruise past Stoke, cut City’s lead to 12 points

Antonio Valencia, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku scored for Manchester United in their victory over Stoke City.

MANCHESTER — .With Alexis Sanchez potentially on his way to Manchester United, two members of the current forward line issued reminders of their goal-scoring talents on Monday.

Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku, whose places in the team would be threatened by the arrival of Sanchez, both netted in United’s 3-0 win over relegation-threatened Stoke in the English Premier League.

Martial’s goal, in particular, stood out. The winger curled a first-time shot into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area to make it 2-0 in the 38th minute. Antonio Valencia had put United ahead in the ninth with a fierce left-footed shot into the top corner.

United capitalized on Manchester City’s first loss in the league — at Liverpool on Sunday — to reduce the gap to the leader to 12 points with 15 games remaining. Reeling in City is highly improbable at this stage but United, which is alone in second place, is in the best position to do so.

Especially having jumped above City in the race to sign Sanchez.

City ended its interest in the Chile forward on Monday, leaving United as the favorite to sign a player who appears keen to move from Arsenal in the January transfer window. Chelsea might also have entered the race to sign Sanchez.

“If he moves, I think we have a chance,” Mourinho said. “Most probably, a player like him, he probably has other big clubs who are interested.”

Former Norwich and Aston Villa coach Paul Lambert was hired as Stoke manager hours before kickoff, as a replacement for the fired Mark Hughes, and was in the stands at Old Trafford to see the size of the task awaiting him.

United goalkeeper David De Gea was needed to pull off good saves from Xherdan Shaqiri and Mame Biram Diouf, but it was comfortable for United on an evening of occasional hailstorms in northwest England.

Stoke, which has been in the top flight since 2008, is in third-to-last place after 23 games.

Valencia, back from nearly a month out with a hamstring injury, collected Paul Pogba’s pass, cut inside, and blasted a shot into the top corner with his weaker foot to give United the lead.

That goal was eclipsed by Martial, who was also picked out by an astute pass from Pogba. The France forward didn’t hesitate in meeting it with a first-time shot that bent beyond the grasp of Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland.

Lukaku added a third goal in the 72nd when he controlled a pass from Martial inside the area, spun marker Kevin Wimmer and sent in a shot on the turn that fizzed past Butland.

United moved three points clear of Chelsea and Liverpool in the race for qualification for the Champions League.

“I didn’t watch Liverpool beat Manchester City, it doesn’t change anything,” Mourinho said. “The distance is an important distance, I have been there before.

“They have their destiny in their hands.”

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.