An action-packed afternoon of Premier League football on 19 December provided no shortage of talking points as Louis van Gaal's future at Manchester United appeared increasingly precarious thanks to a shock 2-1 defeat to lowly Norwich at Old Trafford. Cameron Jerome gave the visitors the lead before the break, while Norwegian midfielder Alexander Tettey doubled their advantage with a powerful toe poke from the edge of the 18-yard box.
Anthony Martial reduced the arrears after working space to finish from close range, but United were unable to find that elusive equaliser as their disappointing run extended to no wins from their last six matches in all competitions. The result leaves them fifth in the table and with no Champions League knockout football to look forward to, calls for the Dutchman to be removed from his post are likely to grow louder.
At Chelsea, life after Jose Mourinho began in pleasing fashion as they secured a comfortable victory over Sunderland against a backdrop of hostility in west London. Those in attendance were eager to demonstrate support for their former manager, who confirmed earlier today in a statement released on his behalf that he had no plans to take a sabbatical. Branislav Ivanovic, who was booed by some fans before kick-off along with Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, issued a swift riposte to his critics by heading home Willian's corner within five minutes.
Pedro notched his first goal since August when an Ivanovic cross bobbled back off Costa, while the impressive Oscar also got on the scoresheet from the penalty spot after Willian had been clipped by goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon. Each goal only seemed to increase the mutiny in the stands, though, where people demanded to know where such a performance had been during that dismal run of nine defeats from 16 matches that left Chelsea hovering just one point above the relegation zone before kick-off.
Dismal in the first half, spirited Sunderland grabbed a consolation when Thibaut Courtois parried a powerful header from Younes Kaboul directly into the path of substitute Fabio Borini. Guus Hiddink, whose return as interim manager was announced shortly before the match, watched from the director's box alongside owner Roman Abramovich and Didier Drogba.
Magnificent Leicester extended their surprising lead at the summit of the Premier League to five points with a 3-2 win at Everton. In-form midfielder Riyad Mahrez netted from the spot after Ramiro Funes Mori fouled Shinji Okazaki, but Romelu Lukaku restored parity soon afterwards by scoring in his seventh consecutive match.
A quick burst of two goals in four second-half minutes sealed all three points for Claudio Ranieri's men, Mahrez again netting from 12 yards following Tim Howard's challenge on the marauding Jamie Vardy and Okazaki extending the lead with a composed finish. Kevin Mirallas scored from close range late on but it was too late for any comeback.
Elsewhere, Tottenham bounced back from only their second defeat of the campaign last weekend as a wonderful solo goal from Harry Kane and an effort from Dele Alli secured a comfortable 2-0 win over out-of-form Southampton at St Mary's. Crystal Palace triumphed 2-1 against Stoke, Chung-Yong Lee silencing the Britannia Stadium crowd with a booming 30-yard strike that flew beyond Jack Butland. Connor Wickham and Bojan had exchanged earlier penalties.
Tony Pulis was left ruing West Brom's indiscipline as the Baggies slipped to a narrow defeat at home to Bournemouth. James McClean was dismissed for a desperately poor challenge on Adam Smith with the score still goalless, but the latter got his revenge with a low shot shortly after half-time.
Gareth McAuley equalised with a glancing header, but Charlie Daniels grabbed the winner from the spot after Darren Fletcher was adjudged to have tripped Dan Gosling. The hosts were reduced to nine men late on when record signing Salomon Rondon was sent off for leaning in with the head during a dispute with Smith.
In the day's late kick-off, Jordan Ayew rescued a point for rock-bottom Aston Villa away to Newcastle with a fine strike that negated Fabricio Coloccini's goal seven minutes before the break.