Stoke 2-0 Manchester United: United lose fourth straight game as pressure increases on Louis van Gaal
By Oliver Yew
Last Updated: 27/12/15 9:07am
Stoke increased the pressure on Louis van Gaal as Manchester United suffered a fourth straight defeat in all competitions thanks to a 2-0 loss at the Britannia Stadium.
Speculation over Van Gaal's future at Old Trafford had intensified before Christmas and his plight was not helped by first-half strikes from Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic on Boxing Day.
Wayne Rooney came on at the break in place of the disappointing Memphis Depay - whose gaffe gifted Stoke their opener - but was unable to inspire a United comeback.
Defeat means United, who face Chelsea on Monday, have lost four straight games in all competitions in a single season for the first time in 54 years and drop down to sixth on goal difference, while Stoke sit comfortably in 10th.
Rooney had issued a rallying cry before his side's trip to the Britannia, asking his team-mates to save the club's season, but he was only handed a watching brief from the bench.
Stoke instead started brightly with Xherdan Shaqiri flashing a dangerous cross right across United's six-yard box in the third minute.
The hosts needed Jack Butland to keep out Ander Herrera's low shot from the edge of the box, but they continued to put United under pressure as Arnautovic curled a free-kick wide of the upright.
But they were soon ahead in the 17th minute courtesy of an error from Depay, who headed the ball straight into the path of Glen Johnson, the defender squaring the ball for Bojan to fire home.
Their lead was doubled seven minutes later when Bojan's free-kick rebounded to Arnautovic, who unleashed a thunderous drive past David De Gea and into the top corner from 25 yards.
It was no more than Stoke's performance deserved but United, and Depay, had the chance to respond immediately, although Butland did well to keep out the Dutchman's bouncing effort.
Stoke who should have had the game wrapped up before the break when Bojan's inch-perfect through-ball released Arnautovic, but with just De Gea to beat the Austria international fired wide of the right-hand post.
The introduction of Rooney after the break seemed to give United a new lease of life as Marouane Fellaini forced Butland into a spectacular save from close range after good approach play by the United captain in the box.
In the 72nd minute, United needed a vital touch from Ashley Young to prevent Arnautovic from latching on to a curled cross from the right and having a clear sight of De Gea's goal.
However, De Gea was called into action again in the 80th minute as he beat clear Bojan's stinging cross at his near post before Charlie Adam sent a free-kick over the bar from 30 yards.
Van Gaal's last throw of the dice was to send on 19-year-old Andreas Pereira for the final seven minutes as Anthony Martial and Juan Mata forced Butland into yet more superb stops.
But it was to be Stoke's day and yet more misery for United - now winless in seven games - as Jose Mourinho's name rang out from the frustrated travelling support.
Stoke: Butland (8), Cameron (7), Shawcross (7), Wollscheid (7), Pieters (7), Johnson (8), Whelan (7), Shaqiri (7), Krkic (9), Afellay (7), Arnautovic (8).
Subs used: Van Ginkel (6), Adam (6), Diouf (6).
Manchester United: De Gea (7), Jones (6), Smalling (6), Blind (4), Young (6), Carrick (6), Herrera (6), Mata (6), Fellaini (5), Depay (4), Martial (5).
Subs used: Rooney (6), Pereira (5).
Man of the match: Bojan Krkic