Rooney thanks Van Gaal for Christmas break

Wayne Rooney has thanked Louis van Gaal for his decision to give Manchester United's squad Christmas Day off to spend with their families.

Van Gaal's side welcome Newcastle United to Old Trafford on Boxing Day as they look to maintain their recent surge up the Premier League table, which has left them third, despite a stuttering start to life under the Dutchman.

A run of six straight wins was ended by a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa last time out.

Radamel Falcao is the only member of United's squad likely to play on Thursday who may be unaccustomed to the hectic festive schedule in English football.

But Rooney believes spending Christmas at home will provide a nice fillip for those charging their batteries for a tough run.

"We're not 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," 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."

United captain Rooney is expected to line up in midfield again when Alan Pardew's men make the trip to Manchester, with Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini unable to shake off knocks.

One good piece of news for Van Gaal is Daley Blind's return to training after six weeks out with a knee injury, however.