Manchester United crashed to a dismal 2-0 defeat at West Ham on Saturday that piled pressure on under-fire boss Erik ten Hag, while Rebecca Welch became the first woman to referee a Premier League match when Fulham met Burnley. (Man Utd)
While United’s misery and Welch’s historic milestone took the early spotlight on the last Premier League weekend before Christmas, there was a festive cracker in store later on Saturday when leaders Arsenal travelled to third-placed Liverpool.
Ten Hag’s United side were blown away by West Ham’s late strikes from Jarrod Bowen and Mohammed Kudus at the London Stadium, condemning them to an eighth Premier League loss already this season.
United, languishing in eighth place, have managed just one win in seven games in all competitions.
They have lost three of their last four matches and failed to score in any of them for the first time since 1992.
It has been a wretched second season for Ten Hag, whose team have been eliminated from Europe after finishing bottom of their Champions League group, while also crashing out of the League Cup.
United have lost 13 games in all competitions this season — their most defeats before Christmas since 1930-31 when they finished bottom of the table.
“In 2023, we won a Cup, we played the FA Cup final, we were third in the league. There were highlights but we are over-performing, but in this moment we are underperforming,” Ten Hag said.
“We have to be calm, stick together, stick to the plan, we have to do it together.”
At Craven Cottage, Welch, a 40-year-old from northeast England, enjoyed a breakthrough moment for female officials in Burnley’s 2-0 win over Fulham.
In 2021, she became the first woman appointed to referee a match in the English Football League when she took charge of the fourth-tier fixture between Harrogate and Port Vale.
Last month, Welch became the first woman to act as fourth official in a Premier League game as part of the officiating team for Fulham’s match against Manchester United.
It was an impressive debut for Welch, who ignored boos from the Fulham fans when she booked Calvin Bassey after his arm caught Josh Brownhill.
Wilson Odobert’s 47th minute opener for Burnley needed no intervention from Welch and her assistants, with Sander Berge’s 66th minute goal sealing just the third win this season for the second-bottom Clarets.
• Nuno makes losing start –
Tottenham moved up to fourth place, three points behind Arsenal, after a 2-1 win against Everton in north London.
Richarlison put Tottenham ahead against his former club in the ninth minute, slotting home from Brennan Johnson’s low cross to make it three goals in his last four games.
Son Heung-min doubled the lead in the 18th minute with a powerful finish after Everton keeper Jordan Pickford could only parry Johnson’s shot into the South Korean’s path.
Andre Gomes blasted into the far corner to reduce the deficit in the 82nd minute, but it was too late to stop Everton’s first defeat in five league games.
Luton bolstered their bid for survival with an impressive 1-0 win against Newcastle at Kenilworth Road.
Paying the perfect tribute to Tom Lockyer as the Hatters captain recovers from his on-pitch cardiac arrest at Bournemouth last Saturday, Andros Townsend clinched the points in the 25th minute with a close-range finish.
Rob Edwards’ third bottom side climbed to within two points of safety thanks to their third win this season.
Bournemouth’s Dominic Solanke ruined Nuno Espirito Santo’s first match in charge of Nottingham Forest as the striker’s hat-trick sealed a 3-2 victory.
Former Tottenham and Wolves boss Nuno replaced the sacked Steve Cooper earlier this week, but he couldn’t stop Forest, who are fourth from bottom, from losing for the sixth time in seven games.
Forest defender Willy Boly was sent off in the 23rd minute before Anthony Elanga put Nuno’s men ahead in the 47th minute.
Solanke equalised four minutes later and netted again in the 58th minute.
Chris Wood scored a 74th minute equaliser, but Solanke won it in stoppage time.