Antonio Valencia, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku all netted as Manchester United secured a comprehensive 3-0 win over Stoke City at Old Trafford on Monday night.
Old Trafford may be waiting for Alexis Sanchez but Man United proved there is already plenty of firepower in their ranks.
Valencia and Martial were on the mark with fabulous first-half finishes as United cut neighbours City’s lead at the top of the table to 12 points.
Romelu Lukaku fired home his 17th goal of the season after the break as Jose Mourinho’s men strolled to victory.
New Stoke boss Paul Lambert, appointed yesterday morning, was watching from the stands before starting work.
And he must have been wondering quite what he has let himself in for at the Potters when United tore into his injury-hit side and raced into the lead after nine minutes.
It was also no consolation for the former Aston Villa chief that he witnessed something of a collector’s item from United goalscorer Valencia – a left-foot screamer.
The right-back, returning to the side after a month out, took a pass after good work from Paul Pogba and darted into the box, running at defender Josh Tymon.
Valencia was given room to advance before blasting an unstoppable shot from 16 yards past the dive of Jack Butland.
Tymon, 18, was also at fault for United’s second, after 38 minutes, losing the ball to Lukaku who pulled it back for Pogba. The French ace spotted countryman Martial lurking unmarked on the edge of the box and his pass allowed the forward to place a magnificent shot into the top corner of the Stoke net.
Teenager Tymon’s only other start for Stoke was in the recent 5-0 battering at Chelsea, part of a depressing run that has seen the Potters gather just four points from the last 21 available and cost manager Mark Hughes his job.
It looked a tall order for them to add to that tally, given the way United started.
Stoke survived an unconvincing penalty shout when Austrian debutant Moritz Bauer challenged Martial in the area.
But, despite going behind so early, Stoke might actually have found a quick way back into the contest.
Former Red Darren Fletcher picked out Xherdan Shaqiri for a spectacular bicycle kick but sadly for him it was straight at goalkeeper David De Gea.
Injury-cursed Stephen Ireland, starting a league game for the first time in 996 days, twice came close in quick succession, poking shots wide from 15 yards. After 25 minutes, Peter Crouch increased the pressure when he beat De Gea to a deep cross from the impressive Bauer.
He nodded back across goal but Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who scored twice against United earlier this season, saw his goal-bound shot blocked by Phil Jones.
Manchester United lifted some of the pressure on their defence with a string of attacks, the best of which saw Luke Shaw’s 25-yard effort well held by Butland.
Juan Mata then played a clever one-two with Valencia as he wormed his way into the area but slipped, under pressure from Bruno Martins Indi, in the saturated conditions.
United were possibly taking time to acclimatise to the freezing wind and driving rain of a Manchester January evening after a week at their warm-weather training camp in Dubai.
Two goals down, Stoke might have clawed one back before the break when De Gea scurried to keep out a Shaqiri shot.
But United were back at their visitors immediately after the restart, with Butland needing to race from his line to beat Martial to another great Pogba pass. Martial was even more wasteful from Pogba’s next cross, taking two stabs at a close-range chance before steering his shot straight at the keeper.
And Mata will still be wondering how he missed the target just after the hour after a flowing counter-attack involving Lukaku and Jesse Lingard.
Mata blasted over from Lingard’s lay-off before Lukaku netted a rebound from his own saved shot, only for the effort to be ruled out as the Spaniard was offside.
But the third goal finally came after 72 minutes when Lingard collected the ball and drove forward.
He found Martial who picked out Lukaku and the striker brought the ball down on his chest, turned and fired home a fine left-foot shot from 15 yards.
It was nearly four but Butland produced another fine save from substitute Marcus Rashford’s clever backheel.