Van Gaal could quit United; Hiddink draws 1st Chelsea game
STOKE: A fourth consecutive loss left Louis van Gaal lamenting his Manchester United players' inability to handle the pressure and blaming the windy conditions at Stoke. Then the manager conceded he might be at fault and suggested he could resign.
The 2-0 loss at Stoke on Saturday saw United drop to sixth in the Premier League and left Van Gaal's side winless in seven matches in all competitions — the team's worst run in 26 years.
"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 only provided a greater threat 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."
Van Gaal is due to be hosting fellow Dutchman Guus Hiddink who has returned to ailing champion Chelsea after Jose Mourinho's departure.
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 only behind United on goal difference in seventh place.
Leicester remained on top despite Christian Benteke giving Liverpool a 1-0 victory over the surprise front-runners. But Arsenal had a chance to usurp Leicester by beating Southampton in the late game.
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.
Tottenham is three points behind City in 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 now has 27 goals in 2015, surpassing Teddy Sheringham's previous club record of 26 in a calendar year.
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.
But Swansea climbed out of the relegation zone 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.