Belfast Telegraph

Recharged Rooney is ready for some festive fireworks

By Paul Hirst

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney welcomed manager Louis van Gaal's decision to give his players Christmas Day off.

Unlike his predecessors David Moyes and Sir Alex Ferguson, Van Gaal instructed his players to stay at home yesterday, even though they have a match at home to Newcastle today.

Christmas Day training was been cancelled and the players reported for duty this morning at the AON Training Complex in Carrington.

A Boxing Day game will be a new experience for Van Gaal and five of the six players he signed in the summer.

Rooney feels they will benefit from being able to spend time with their families.

"It is good for the foreign players and those of us with children," said Rooney, who has two sons.

"It must be strange for the new players to have more games than ever over Christmas, having had the time off previously.

"They have to adapt and be ready for it, while being aware of the fixture list. I'm sure they'll be prepared for the upcoming games."

The omens look good for United ahead of the match. They have only lost once on Boxing Day - against Middlesbrough in 2002 - since the Premier League began.

Rooney, however, has bagged just two goals in eight Boxing Day appearances for the Red Devils.

The 29-year-old is expected to play in midfield against the Magpies, with Radamel Falcao poised to continue up front alongside Robin van Persie.

Falcao ended a two-month goal drought with a well-taken header at Aston Villa last weekend and Rooney hopes the Colombian will now start scoring on a regular basis.

"It was great for Falcao to get on the scoresheet, and it was a great header," the England skipper said.

"I'm pleased for him and I hope he continues that into the next few games."

The 1-1 draw at Villa Park ended a run of six consecutive wins for Van Gaal's team, who are now third in the Barclays Premier League.

Newcastle, on the other hand, have struggled for consistency this year.

Talk of Alan Pardew being sacked subsided last month after he took Newcastle on their own six-match winning run, but the Magpies have struggled recently, losing their last three games.

"They've had their highs and lows - they started badly and there were a few shouts for Alan Pardew to lose his job," Rooney said.

"I'm happy he wasn't sacked and I think they went on to win five or six games in a row.

"They haven't picked up as many points as they would have liked to in the last few games, but it's always a tough game against Newcastle."

Newcastle's last defeat - to Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby - will have hurt the most.

Adam Johnson's 90th-minute winner condemned the Magpies to their third home defeat to their local rivals in as many seasons.

Rooney does not believe the loss will be playing on the mind of the Newcastle players when they arrive at Old Trafford.

"I don't think losing to Sunderland will affect them too much," Rooney said.

"It was a big loss for them in a derby, especially with the last-minute winner but they're coming to Old Trafford to play Manchester United, so they'll be ready for it.

"I think we'll have to be at our best to win the game."

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