Louis van Gaal raised a glass of wine to those present at yesterday’s press conference, an act of class and amiability that somewhat epitomised what the man has brought to the role since July – the Dutchman has possessed this air of assurance and partial arrogance from day one – having transformed a beleaguered and uninventive side into one of great confidence and versatility, I’ll probably raise a glass to him this Christmas as well.
With Manchester United sitting rather comfortably in 3rd spot, Mr van Gaal can tuck into his turkey this Christmas with the feeling that the first four months of his tenure have been generally quite positive; infirmities remain within the side in some aspects, but there seems to be a real plan behind this massive project, and progress is being made – even in the underwhelming draw at Villa Park positive signs were there to be seen with the 3-5-2 formation beginning to look more fluid and dominative.
With players returning from injury and clear improvement being seen in each performance, 2015 looks to be a year of great potential that will almost certainly eclipse the trauma of 2014’s early stages.
History confirms that Manchester United generally emerge victorious on Boxing Day – only losing once in the Premier League’s entire lifespan – last seasons 0-1 defeat at home to Newcastle showcased a standard home performance under Moyes; tactically lacklustre, confidence stricken, and just generally difficult to watch.
If the standard home performance under Louis van Gaal is displayed on Boxing Day then a positive result looks likely against a side that hasn’t won away from home since early November. The visiting team can be only described as mercurial; awful at the start of the season, very good for about 6 weeks, and then bang average of recent times – it’s only understandable that Alan Pardew’s side is currently placed in 9th position, 8 points off the relegation zone and 8 points off the Champions League places.
I’m far too young to remember when Newcastle were any good, but by making small-talk with older reds it’s very clear that this fixture used to be nothing short of gargantuan to each set of supporters – that notion may remain the same amongst Geordies, but Manchester United supporters look upon this game with a relatively limited amount of anticipation – of course, that is merely the fault of Newcastle themselves. They’re just not that good anymore.
With that said, Alan Pardew’s side will be no walkover following their painful Tyne-Wear derby defeat, Louis van Gaal would have made his men wary of a potential backlash.
The Tynesiders will have to make the long trip to Manchester with Tiote, their main midfield aggressor, unable to play due to suspension. The injury list for Alan Pardew is nothing short of daunting – Ex red Obertan, de Jong, Aarons, Elliot, Santon, Tim Krul and Ryan Taylor all miss out. Steven Taylor is available following a nasty collision with a post in Newcastle’s previous game.
Louis van Gaal confirmed that Fellaini, Herrera, Rojo, Blind and Shaw will not return on Boxing day, Chris Smalling has a ‘slight chance’.
More or less every stat points to a home win this Friday, Newcastle have only managed 1 win in 30 attempts at Old Trafford and don’t look as if they will end an 8 game home unbeaten run with Louis van Gaal’s side looking to cement their Champions League status.
I wish you all a very happy Christmas, and here’s to a continuation of this excellent home form on Boxing Day and into the New Year.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Newcastle United