Arsenal and Manchester United were embarrassed and Chelsea drew on another erratic day in the Premier League. And despite losing at Liverpool, Leicester’s surprise lead was maintained on Saturday.
Man United manager Louis van Gaal might not stick around in England to see if Leicester can win the league for the first time.
Losing 2-0 at Stoke on Boxing Day condemned United to a fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions for the first time since 1961, and pushed the team down to sixth place.
Van Gaal lamented his players’ inability to handle the pressure, and partly blamed the windy conditions at Stoke. Then the manager conceded he might be at fault and suggested he could resign.
“I do my utmost best to find solutions to cope with the pressure,” Van Gaal said. “But in the end my players have to do that by themselves.”
It was a hapless first-half performance, and Van Gaal questioned why his players “don’t dare to play football.”
Memphis Depay’s diving backward header allowed Bojan Krkic to put Stoke in front, and Marko Arnautovic powered in a second goal from outside the penalty area.
Wayne Rooney was forced to start a league game on the bench for the first time in two years, and United provided a greater threat only with its captain on the field in the second half. But a combination of poor finishing and Jack Butland’s saves prevented United from leaving Stoke with anything.
Van Gaal’s comments and demeanor suggest his stay at Old Trafford is reaching an endgame after barely 18 months in charge.
“I can also quit by myself,” Van Gaal said when asked about receiving assurances about his job security, before adding: “It is not always … the club has to fire or sack me.”
Asked if he would be in charge at Old Trafford on Monday when United plays Chelsea, Van Gaal said: “You will have to wait and see. But I think so.”
On a rare day when every Premier League team was in action, there was a bigger humbling for Arsenal, which missed the chance to go top after being thrashed 4-0 by Southampton.
Cuco Martina’s half-volley put Southampton in front and Shane Long scored twice either side of Jose Fonte’s header as the hosts rose to 12th place.
“We lost too many challenges, they were sharper than us, and we were a bit unlucky as well,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
Arsenal stayed two points behind Leicester, which lost 1-0 at Liverpool after conceding from Christian Benteke.
Manchester City quickly recovered from losing at Arsenal on Monday to thump struggling Sunderland 4-1 to stay third. There were four different City scorers: Raheem Sterling, Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony, and Kevin de Bruyne.
A change of manager at Chelsea produced no quick-fix. Guus Hiddink’s first match in charge ended in a 2-2 draw at home to high-flying Watford after Oscar missed a second-half penalty that could have secured back-to-back wins.
Watford came from behind after conceding from Diego Costa’s volley to take the lead at Stamford Bridge. Troy Deeney leveled from the spot and Odion Igahlo put the visitors in front before Costa equalized with his second.
While Chelsea remains two points above the relegation zone – and 13 points from fourth place – Watford is behind United only on goal difference in seventh place.
Tottenham remained fourth after a 3-0 victory over Norwich engineered by Harry Kane’s double – the first from the penalty spot – and Tom Carroll’s strike. Kane has 27 goals in 2015, surpassing Teddy Sheringham’s previous club record of 26 in a calendar year, 22 years ago.
Crystal Palace is two points behind Tottenham in fifth place after a 0-0 draw at Bournemouth that extended the London club’s unbeaten run to four games.
Aston Villa remains bottom and Remi Garde is still searching for a first win as manager after a 1-1 draw against West Ham.
Newcastle dropped into the relegation zone after Tom Cleverley gave Everton a 1-0 win at St. James’ Park.
Swansea climbed out of the bottom three by beating West Bromwich Albion 1-0, with Ki Sung-yueng’s first goal of the season ending a four-month spell without a home win in south Wales.