Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his 17th Premier League goal of the season to set Manchester United on course for a 3-0 victory over 10-man Sunderland which moves them up to fifth in the table.
Ibrahimovic put United on their way with a first-half strike at the Stadium of Light before Sebastian Larsson was dismissed for the hosts, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan adding a second shortly after the break and Marcus Rashford scoring late on to leave Jose Mourinho’s men four points off the top four.
United, who had made five changes to their side, started the game the brighter and created their first opportunity after just two minutes, with Jesse Lingard taking aim at goal from the edge of the box only for Jordan Pickford to comfortably make a save.
After struggling initially, Sunderland began to get a foothold in the game around the 20-minute mark, with Bryan Oviedo sending a free kick straight at Sergio Romero, and Lee Cattermole doing the same with a hit from open play a few minutes later.
But United were soon back on top as Lingard again brought out a stop from Pickford with a low drive that the Sunderland keeper managed to tip round the post.
And on the half-hour mark, the visitors had found the breakthrough — Ibrahimovic escaped his marker on the edge of the box before bending an excellent strike past Pickford into the bottom corner.
United kept up the pressure after the goal and could have doubled their lead five minutes later, but Marouane Fellaini — captain for the day — was unable to force the ball past Pickford from only a few yards out after being picked out by a Luke Shaw cross.
Sunderland created their best opportunity of the half five minutes before the break when Victor Anichebe managed to escape Eric Bailly, but Romero was off his line in a flash to deny the striker.
But just a few moments later and the hosts were down to 10 men, with Larsson being shown a red card for raising his studs during a challenge on Ander Herrera.
Things got worse for Sunderland when less than a minute into the second half Mkhitaryan added a second for United, firing a low hit into the bottom corner of the net.
The away side looked in little danger after doubling their lead and Ibrahimovic almost made it three shortly before the hour-mark with a deflected effort that Pickford did well to turn away with this legs.
Another chance fell United’s way a few moments later when Ibrahimovic headed the ball into Paul Pogba’s path but the midfielder blazed over the bar.
Sunderland created a rare second-half opportunity in the 65th minute when Jermain Defoe wriggled away from two defenders before firing over from the edge of the area.
Despite Defoe wasting another chance for Sunderland late on, United were able to see out the remainder of the game with ease, with substitute Rashford adding a third in the 90th minute, drilling the ball into the bottom corner after being teed up by Ibrahimovic.