Saturday Night Takeaways: Van Gaal under pressure as Leicester prove they're not messing around

From bottom of the table last Christmas to league leaders, it's been a huge 12 months for Leicester.

BY Cian Roche 20:44 Saturday 19 December 2015, 20:44 19 Dec 2015

Image: Richard Sellers / EMPICS Sport

It might be time for Louis van Gaal to start worrying

An inability to create clear cut scoring chances has been highlighted in most of Manchester United's matches this season, but they have normally gotten by thanks to the resolute nature of their defence. 

Today, they were unable to stop Norwich getting two goals as their normally impregnable back line were at sea atfer strikes from Cameron Jermoe adn Alexander Tettey. Norwich conceded their customary goal (they've only kept one clean sheet this season)

Fans were quick to boo at the break as the team went in 2-0 down, and while a goal from Martial clawed something back, it wasn't enough to see them mount a real comeback as Norwich were able to keep them at bay for the remainder of the game. That makes it two losses out of two to newly promoted sides for Van Gaal, and with so little for fans to cheer about in the style of play that United are offering, the pressure becomes even more pronounced. 

Mourinho's representatives have reportedly already been putting his name in the ring at Old Trafford, and with news that Carlo Ancelotti is in line to take over at Bayern, the Dutchman's tenure may well be cut short this season at some stage or another unless results and performances improve.

Leicester secure the Christmas number one spot

Last Christmas, Leicester were rooted to the bottom of the table and looked odds on to be headed back down to the Championship, but this year, to save them from tears, they've gone an incredible run to secure top spot. 

Their three goals from Riyad Mahrez (2) and Shinji Okazaki were enough to overcome scores from the Belgian brace of Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku for Everton and they currently sit five points clear at the top of the table, with Manchester City and Arsenal set to play on Monday night. 

Image: Peter Byrne / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Over the last few months, people have constantly questioned when the run would come to an end, but getting to this point in the season atop the league is an achievement that suggests they may well go on to even greater things: only one team in the last five years has been top at Christmas and not gone on to win the league

Bournemouth get a third win on the bounce

Manager Eddie Howe got a lot of criticism for his style of play when Bournemouth struggled to find results in the early months, but despite calls for him to opt for a more direct style, his attacking philosophy has started to provide him and his team with a platform to work from. 

Image: Tim Ireland / AP/Press Association Images

Three wins on the bounce, including victories over Manchester United and Chelsea, have surely given the entire team a much-needed confidence boost and reaffirmed that they've been doing the right things and just not gotten the rub of the green. 

However, they have made a number of small changes to their style, becoming a bit less open at the back and the return of some key players in the middle of the park have made them a completely different side to the one that went through October and November without getting a win. 

Chelsea players show up to beat Sunderland 

A number of players were not welcomed to the pitch in the usual fashion at Stamford Bridge this afternoon, as the fans let them know that they were not happy with the performances they had put in under departed manager Jose Mourinho. 

In particular, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa were booed when their names were read out on the loudspeakers, while later in the match, after the second goal went in, the crowd wanted to know where this performance had come from. 

The 3-1 win over Sunderland gives them a bit of breathing space from the drop zone, and appears to have stopped the rot as Guus Hiddink prepares to take over the hot seat from the now departed Mourinho, but there's certainly a level of discontent in the dressing room that may well be difficult for him to manage in the coming weeks.

Elsewhere, Spurs claimed a 2-0 win at St. Mary's as Southampton slump to a fourth defeat in their last five games as the momentum falls away from a good start to the season. 

McClaren's call for consistency is justified

After last weekend's late win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane, Steve McClaren would have been forgiven for getting a little bit carried away in the wave of joy and for the most part relief.

In his post-match interview he praised his players efforts, but insisted no corners had been turned, stating that the team "needed to get results like this on a consistent basis".

Today's 1-1 draw against Aston Villa reaffirmed these sentiments.

Newcastle's torrid start to the season looks, for the most part, to be behind them and with teams like Bournemouth and Norwich finding some sort of rhythm, a team with as much Premier League experience as Newcastle shouldn't find it that difficult to hit their stride.

The key now is to tighten up defensively. Not a lot could be done against Jordan Ayew's sublime strike, but they need to be strong at the back to allow their attacking talent like Aleksandar Mitrović and Ayoze Perez to flourish.

With that said, today's result wasn't a loss. With Aston Villa also sturggling and Southampton on a downward trajectory, McClaren can be sure that there are a number of worse positions to be in at this moment in time.

Off The Ball


The very best bits of Off The Ball delivered every week