Boxing Day games in England are one of the time honored traditions in world soccer. Comparable to American football on Thanksgiving, Boxing Day provides a chance for soccer fans all over the world to revel in the glory of the world’s best soccer competition, the Premier League.
This Boxing Day did not disappoint, as it brought us thrilling contests like a massive Manchester United loss, an even bigger Manchester City win, a Liverpool upset of Leicester City and an absolute dismantling of Arsenal by Southampton. However, as is always the case in the BPL, especially on Boxing Day, the stars shone through. Here are three of the best from the weekend.
Sadio Mane, Striker, Southampton F.C.
While Southampton fans have endured a very difficult six-week stretch where their side has failed to produce the same magic that saw them reach a Europa League spot last season, their 4-0 dismantling of Premier-League-title-chasing Arsenal had the Saints appearing every bit like the team that surprised everyone last season.
At the center of the Saints attacking onslaught is Sadio Mane, who dominated Arsenal center back Laurent Koscielny on the day and used his speed to set up Shane Long for the Saints’ second goal. Mane has been the subject of a number of transfer rumors this season, with many fans feeling that the 23-year-old Senegalese international has grown too big for Southampton, and the time to sell is now.
While the most recent rumors have linked Mane to Manchester United, Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has previously insisted the club will not sell their prized forward, not even for £100 million. Definitely something to keep an eye on in the January transfer window.
Bojan Krkic, Winger, Stoke City
With Louis van Gaal’s job supposedly on the line with each passing day in Manchester, you would think United would muster some semblance of fight, especially against a traditionally mid-table side like Stoke City. However, the Boxing Day match up between the two clubs was far from a happy day for the United faithful, as they saw their Red Devils fall to the Potters 2-0.
The star for Stoke was one of the former Barcelona players they brought in this summer, Bojan Krkic, who constantly frustrated the United defense with deft passing and a keen eye for the open man. Bojan’s curling free kick in the first half set up Stoke’s second goal, and if not for some stunning plays by United goalkeeper David de Gea, he easily could have made it 3-0.
Stoke have now beaten three out of the BPL’s four Champions League teams from last season, and have looked every bit like a team ready to challenge for a spot in European competition this season.
Kevin De Bruyne, Midfielder, Manchester City
After watching De Bruyne’s performance against Sunderland on Boxing Day, Chelsea fans all over the world are kicking themselves that they let perhaps the best midfield talent in the Premier League walk away for next to nothing. The young Belgian was fantastic for City against the Black Cats, providing two assists as well as a goal of his own in a 4-1 win over Sunderland.
De Bruyne is easily making the case as this best transfer of the summer window in the Premier League, and will only grow into his role as he gets older. Even scarier for the other big clubs in England is what could happen if Pep Guardiola takes over at City next season, as De Bruyne is the perfect midfielder for Pep’s “tiki-taka” system.
There’s certainly a lot to look forward to for City fans with this man anchoring their midfield.