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Van Gaal gets into the festive spirit and raises a glass to his 'friends of the media'

He may resemble the Grinch, but the Man United boss showed his softer side at Carrington this afternoon.

MANCHESTER UNITED MANAGER Louis van Gaal has had more than his fair share of run-ins with the media down through the years but took the time out this afternoon to wish those present at his press conference a merry Christmas.

The Dutchman, whose team faces Newcastle on St Stephens’ Day in the first of three games over a six-day period, was all smiles as he raised a toast with a glass of red wine.

He also revealed that Marouane Fellaini will again be missing through illness.


Meanwhile, Van Gaal has challenged his squad to help bring the best out of on-loan striker Radamel Falcao.

The Colombian has struggled for fitness since moving from Monaco on loan for the season, though he has scored in his previous two Premier League starts – against Everton in October and Aston Villa at the weekend.

Falcao was prolific in spells at Porto, Atletico Madrid and Monaco, and Van Gaal believes he can replicate that form at Old Trafford, with the help of his colleagues.

Van Gaal said: “Falcao is also dependable on his team-mates. He can be in great form, but the team has to be in great form. That allows Falcao to show his qualities.

When the cross is not coming from Ashley Young, then he cannot show what he has done in the last match [at Villa].”

Falcao’s goal was only enough to snatch a 1-1 draw at Villa, leaving United seven points off neighbours Manchester City in second. After an early-season struggle under Van Gaal, six consecutive wins propelled United into UEFA Champions League contention at least.


Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Aston Villa v Manchester United - Villa Park Source: Nick Potts

Key to United’s recent revival has been the performances of captain Wayne Rooney – dropped into a creative midfield role. Rooney has six goals and three assists to his name this term, and Van Gaal is delighted with the England skipper’s ability to provide from various roles.

He added: “He is a player who can play in different positions and I’m happy with that because I like multifunctional players. “I can use him as a midfielder but also as a striker and attacking midfielder. He has the ability to run from box to box.”

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