Van Gaal frets over Manchester United’s fitness ahead of holiday fixtures

Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao working their way back into Dutchman's plans
Radamel Falcao of Manchester United in action during the Premier League match against Queens Park Rangers at Old Trafford on September 14, 2014, in Manchester, England. Alex Livesey / Getty Images
Radamel Falcao of Manchester United in action during the Premier League match against Queens Park Rangers at Old Trafford on September 14, 2014, in Manchester, England. Alex Livesey / Getty Images

Louis van Gaal has acknowledged he faces a challenging festive period trying to rotate his Manchester United squad to deal with the demands of three games in six days.

United host Newcastle United on Friday and, 43 hours after the end of the game, play their second fixture of the holiday period in London, with an early kick-off against Tottenham Hotspur, before they travel to Stoke City on January 1.

The recovery period for a lot of players is impossible,” Van Gaal said. “Some players need more hours, more days. I have to rotate, but then I need fit players.

“Now I am forced to select and for a manager, that is not so good. I don’t have so many fit players. That’s my problem.”

England defender Chris Smalling is the only first-team absentee in contention to face Newcastle, although on-loan striker Radamel Falcao came through a rare start in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Aston Villa with a goal.

“You saw him cheering with the fans, so you saw the goal was a very big boost for him,” Van Gaal said.

“I have seen him play well in training, so I was very pleased he made that beautiful goal. I hope he will follow that with a lot of other goals, go on a run.”

Angel Di Maria also came back from injury at Villa Park and is nearing full fitness.

But his manager said he has yet to find the best role for the multi-dimensional Argentine.

“We still need to find out what the team needs for him,” Van Gaal said.

“It’s also about the composure of the team. We have to look for the best team because so many good players have been injured and I couldn’t select the team I want yet.”

Newcastle have a good recent record at Old Trafford and added to the woes of Van Gaal’s predecessor, David Moyes, last December when they won 1-0 through a goal by Yohan Cabaye.

Alan Pardew’s side travel to Old Trafford after four successive defeats, the latest of which came at home to their derby rivals Sunderland.

Gus Poyet’s Sunderland had a healthy share of possession en route to their 1-0 win and Pardew said his side must show an improvement there.

“One of the reasons we have done well there [Old Trafford] is we retained possession well,” he said. “That’s something we are going to have to do, because you can’t turn possession over to Manchester United with the quality they have up front.”

sports@thenational.ae

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Published: December 25, 2014 04:00 AM

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