Saturday Night Takeaways: Van Gaal hints he'll leave, Leicester taste defeat and Everton leave it late
It was a packed fixture schedule in the Premier League this weekend19:49 Saturday 26 December 2015, 19:49 26 Dec 2015
Had your fill or turkey sandwiches? Then sit back and enjoy a Saturday Night Takeaway.
There was hardly a minute to spare in a packed Premier League fixture list this Stephen's Day, so here are the main talking points after an eventful round of matches.
Van Gaal's charges
The weather played its part at a blustery Britannia Stadium where Manchester United looked a deflated team in a 2-0 defeat to Sunderland. There was little or no invention, and even less effort from the majority of the side, who were too easily brushed off the ball on too many occasions, in particular Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera.
The defeat only served to add pressure to an already tense situation for Louis van Gaal, who has had to endure a very difficult week with speculation surrounding his job on a constant basis. Speaking after the match, he stated that he was aware of the pressure building on him, and that he might decide to jump before he's pushed at Old Trafford.
Klopp could make Foxes slip from the top after flop in front of the Kop
Rhyming aside, this was the start of a very tough run of games for Leicester that didn't go to plan. While they're not out of the race by any means, Liverpool did enough to show in the second half that they were the better side, even if the league table didn't say the same thing.
The Foxes couldn't trouble Simon Mignolet on too many occasions, which eventually lead to Jamie Vardy being subbed off in favour of Leonardo Ulloa. The goal refused to come for Leicester however, despite a few nervy moments at the back for Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho. The weather again seemed to play a role as the wind and the rain made it difficult to get the ball behind the Liverpool backline.
Christian Benteke came on with Divock Origi being taken off injured, and despite a very shaky start he found the back of the net with a half volley that he stretched to make contact with. The effect that had on him was evident from the moment the ball crossed the line, and he looked a different player to the shaky, worried man that took to the pitch. He did miss a great chance at the end, but should have been called for offside given that goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was caught up the pitch.
State of the officiating here by the linesman not to call offside, but Benteke's delayed shot is even worse pic.twitter.com/JQj1fjAeOr— SK (@Salman91x) December 26, 2015
The win was one that Jurgen Klopp desperately needed, but perhaps Claudio Ranieri will be the one who has more to think about as he looks forward to preparing his team for another big game against Manchester City. If they can take points from that fixture, then they're right back on track, but the way that they bounce back from this loss (their first since losing to Arsenal in September) in their next game will be crucial.
Sunderland's plight gets even worse
Manchester City started where they left off against Arsenal on Monday night, racing into a three goal lead that Sunderland were never going to be able to haul back. Raheem Sterling started the scoring after just 12 minutes, Yaya Toure added another shortly afterwards, and the game was put to bed by Wilfried Bony in just the 22nd minute with his side's third.
In the second half Kevin de Bruyne added a fourth, while Bony could have made the gap even wider had he not missed his penalty. A consolation from Fabio Borini was all that Sunderland could muster up, but things are looking bleak for Sam Allardyce.
The problems at the north-east club clearly go deeper than the manager, and while they wouldn't have expected much out of games against Chelsea and Manchester City, they have now conceded seven goals in those two fixtures and lost four on the bounce.
Image: Martin Rickett / PA Wire/Press Association Images
The result leaves them second bottom of the table; while Allardyce is known for turning around bad situations and keeping clubs in the league, he would surely need to buy an entirely new defence in the January transfer window if he has any hope of keeping the club up, something that the owners are unlikely to finance.
Chelsea show they're not quite over their troubles
They might have produced a strong performance last weekend to win 3-1 against Sunderland, but today they showed that they're not quite over their troubles just yet as Guus Hiddink took charge for the first game of his second run as Chelsea manager.
The opening goal from Diego Costa was pegged back by a penalty from Troy Deeney, while a strike from Odion Ighalo gave Watford the lead. Costa pulled his side level again, but a missed penalty from Oscar, which he hit sent into Row Z, would have given them three points that they desperately needed.
Image: Paul Harding / PA Wire/Press Association Images
Watford have been very hard to beat throughout this season, and proved to be so again for the London side, but the defensive problems persists for Chelsea, who have only kept three clean sheets so far this season, compared to the 17 they managed last term. That may be an issue for them as they look at the transfer market this January, having failed in several bids for John Stones during the summer.
Cleverly gives Roberto Martinez a late Christmas gift
Newcastle and Everton were goalless for 92 minutes, but there were still plenty of chances as both sides carved out opportunities for their strikers.
Romelu Lukaku will perhaps rue a number of shots that were saved by an in-form Rob Elliot, while at the other end Tim Howard produced a great block to deny Georginio Wijnaldum. Aleksandar Mitrović perhaps should have also scored with a strong header that would have given his side a slight edge in a very tight affair.
Image: Owen Humphreys / PA Wire/Press Association Images
It wasn't until the very last kick of the game (bar tip off) in the 93rd minute that the ball found the back of the net via Tom Cleverly's head, which brought about scenes of pure joy from manager and player alike.
That gives Steve McClaren something to think about as his side suffer their first loss in four games, but there should be less concern for Newcastle fans in the coming weeks: this was a much improved performance and despite their inability to score, they created a number of good chances as the players finally look to be doing what the manager asks of them and, at times, played some decent football.
The very best bits delivered every weekSubscribe now