LONDON – The expectation is the rails will come off Leicester's title challenge and Manchester United will get back on track. Little goes to the script in this Premier League season.
Manchester United was stunned 1-0 at home by Southampton on Saturday. Leicester went three points clear at the top — for 24 hours at least before Arsenal hosts Chelsea — by beating Stoke 3-0.
Jamie Vardy, having set the record for scoring in 11 consecutive Premier League games earlier in the season, ended a goal drought exceeding 10 hours for Leicester. A first-ever Champions League qualification for the central England club seems less fanciful by the week.
Will United return to the European elite, though? Not if Louis van Gaal's side continues to produce such dismal football. The record 20-time English champions went an 11th home game in a row without scoring in the first half and then conceded after the break when Charlie Austin netted on his Southampton debut.
Perhaps United should have taken a punt on signing Austin from Queens Park Rangers, given the outlay was only around $6 million.
United fans chanted "Attack! Attack!" at their shot-shy team and will have been even more vexed at seeing Mexico striker Javier Hernandez, who was discarded by Louis van Gaal and sent out on loan to Bayer Leverkusen, named the CONCACAF region's player of the year on Friday.
United remains fifth but is now five points behind Tottenham, which came from behind to win 3-1 at Crystal Palace. A moment of individual brilliance saw Tottenham go in front with 10 minutes to go. Dele Alli, one of the breakthrough stars of the season, flicked the ball up and back over his own head before volleying into the bottom corner.
The biggest scoring game of the day was on the east coast with a nine-goal thriller, including two in stoppage time. After Norwich threw away a 3-1 lead in the second half to Liverpool, Sebastian Bassong thought he had secured a 4-4 draw. But in the fourth minute of injury time, Adam Lallana scored his first goal of the season to clinch a 5-4 victory for 7th-place Liverpool.
At Vicarage Road, Watford ended a four-game losing streak by beating Newcastle 2-1. Newcastle remains in the relegation zone along with Sunderland, which was held 1-1 by Bournemouth. Bottom-place Aston Villa endured a goal-less stalemate with local rival West Bromwich Albion and is nine points from safety.
In the late game, West Ham hosted Manchester City.