Louis van Gaal has told his Manchester United players that they will not need to report for training on Christmas Day - despite the Boxing Day fixture against Newcastle United.
The veteran Dutch coach has broken with tradition by offering his players the chance to relax at home with their families. His predecessors at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes, would always call the United players in for pre-match training on Christmas Day.
But Van Gaal, who bemoaned English football’s hectic Christmas schedule at the start of the month, believes this significant change could be beneficial for several reasons.
Van Gaal explains decision
"I have changed that, I have given them free time and Christmas day with the family," Van Gaal responded when asked about United’s festive plans. "We shall come together the next day here at our Aon Training Complex. Then we will have all of the meetings like we have done all season.
“I believe in a total human being so the environment is also important. I think they are more pleased to be at home with their wives and children.
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"I hope they shall give everything to beat the opponent then.
"When you are a national team coach then you don’t have to do anything at Christmas because in the Netherlands the players are also free and have holiday.
“But here we play football and that is also nice."
“I believe in a total human being so the environment is also important. I think they are more pleased to be at home with their wives and children." - Louis van Gaal.
Man United favourites against Newcastle
It’s unclear whether the United boss would have offered his players the day off had the Boxing Day fixture been against a rival Premier League title challenger such as Chelsea or Manchester City.
The Red Devils are expected to beat Alan Pardew’s men on home soil this Thursday and get back to winning ways following last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.
United currently find themselves seven points behind second-placed Manchester City and 10 behind league-leaders Chelsea as we approach the halfway point of the 2014-15 Premier League campaign.
United stars pleased
Naturally, though, Van Gaal’s surprise gesture of goodwill has been gratefully received by the Manchester United players, including captain Wayne Rooney.
The in-form striker, who is entering his 11th year as a Manchester United player, commented: "We’re not actually training on Christmas Day this year because we’ll be spending it at home, which will be good for the foreign players and those of us with children."
Van Gaal will expect Rooney and company to repay him in the form of all three points against the Magpies, ahead of two tough fixtures against Tottenham at White Hart Lane and Stoke City at Old Trafford.