STOKE City piled the pressure on Louis van Gaal with a 2-0 win as his Manchester United side lost a fourth successive game.
First-half goals from Bojan Krkic and Marco Arnautovic gave the Potters an easy Boxing Day victory at the Britannia Stadium.
Van Gaal raised eyebrows with his decision to leave out captain Wayne Rooney, who came on as a half-time substitute but could not revive the Reds.
Marouane Fellaini was denied from close range by Stoke keeper Jack Butland but Mark Hughes’s men, who rise to 10th in the table, could have added to United’s misery.
Arnautovic fired wide when clean through in the first half and Glenn Whelan headed into the side netting as the Potters continually exposed makeshift right-back Ashley Young.
A third successive Premier League loss leaves United without a win in seven games with the future of van Gaal, who admitted afterwards he could ‘quit by myself’, now increasingly uncertain ahead of Monday’s clash against Chelsea at Old Trafford.
Stoke, who had already beaten the champions and Manchester City at home, began 2015 with a 1-1 home draw against United but were streets ahead of a United side lacking in confidence during the first half in blustery Staffordshire.
The hosts broke through on 19 minutes when Glen Johnson pounced upon Memphis Depay’s poor defensive header to set up Bojan to stroke home from close range.
The impressive Arnautovic doubled their lead seven minutes later with a 25-yard thunderbolt past David de Gea after Bojan’s free-kick struck the United wall.
The Potters’ attacking trio of Arnautovic, Bojan and Xherdan Shaqiri caused problems for United centre-back Chris Smalling and Phil Jones on numerous occasions as the visitors offered little in the way of desire and goal threat.
The introduction of Rooney for the ineffective Depay at the break failed to inspire a comeback despite an improved display from the Reds.
United matched the dominance in possession from their 2-1 home defeat by Norwich last weekend but Anthony Martial and Juan Mata could not beat Butland, who also saved well from Fellaini as their best chance to reduce the arrears was squandered.
Stoke’s fourth home win in five games was never in doubt against a disjointed United, who have slipped down to sixth in the table as a vulnerable van Gaal faces more questions about his job.
Substitutes: van Ginkel (on for Whelan 45′), Diouf (on for Shaqiri 65′), Adam (on for Cameron 75′).
Not used: Haugaard (GK), Wilson, Joselu, Walters.
Booked: Bojan (49′)
Goals: Bojan (19′), Arnautovic (27′)
Substitutes: Rooney (on for Depay 45′), Pereira (on for Herrera 82′).
Not used: Romero (GK), Varela, McNair, Borthwick-Jackson, Schneiderlin.
Booked: Young (25′), Pereira (83′)
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire) – 7/10
Read another version of this report on the Granada Reports website