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Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney has welcomed manager Louis van Gaal’s decision to give his players Christmas Day off. Press Association Unlike his predecessors David Moyes and Sir Alex Ferguson, Van Gaal has instructed his players to stay at home on Thursday, even though they have a match at home to Newcastle 24 hours later. Christmas Day training has been cancelled and the players will report for duty the following morning at the AON Training Complex in Carrington. The 29-year-old is expected to play in midfield against the Magpies, with Radamel Falcao poised to continue up front alongside Robin van Persie. Falcao ended a two-month goal drought with a well-taken header at Aston Villa last weekend and Rooney hopes the Colombian will now start scoring on a regular basis. “It was great for Falcao to get on the scoresheet, and it was a great header,” the England skipper told MUTV. “I’m pleased for him and I hope he continues that into the next few games.” The 1-1 draw at Villa Park ended a run of six consecutive wins for Van Gaal’s team, who are now third in the Barclays Premier League. United will be without Ander Herrera, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw and Marouane Fellaini for Friday’s match. Chris Smalling faces a late test on his groin injury while Marcos Rojo is a big doubt due to the thigh problem that has kept him out of the last two matches. Alan Pardew will attempt to bring goals to Newcastle as he prepares for an intensely difficult start to the Christmas campaign. The Magpies travel to in-form Manchester United on Boxing Day on the back of three successive defeats, the last of them a 1-0 reverse at the hands of neighbours Sunderland, an unprecedented fourth consecutive derby loss. Just a few weeks ago, it would have been a fixture Pardew’s men might have approached with some relish having already dispensed with Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea. Asked if his team had saved its best performances for the Barclays Premier League’s big boys, the 53-year-old replied: “Yes and no. “Some of the top clubs, we have not played so well – Arsenal, we didn’t play well, but Spurs we beat, Liverpool we beat as well. “We can raise our game, but we don’t score a lot of goals, and that’s something that is a concern, really, going into the second half of the season, how many goals we have scored. “That’s an area we are going to have to improve on against any team. “But when you play the top teams, you can keep it tight and one goal, two goals can sometimes be enough. But not always, and we need to score more goals.” Newcastle have fared reasonably well on their most recent league visits to Old Trafford, drawing 1-1 there in November 2011, losing by the odd goal in seven on Boxing Day the following year and finally ending a 41-year wait for a victory in December last year. Pardew said: “We have had decent performances at Old Trafford, I think, in the last three. We drew, we lost in the last minute – which was a cracking game – 4-3, and then we won last year, so we have done reasonably well there. “One of the reasons we have one well there is we have retained possession well, and 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 got up front. “They are going well at the minute. They are on a great run, and it’s a game that every time you play them, you have to look forward to it. I certainly do and I am sure our senior players and young players will too.” Playing on Boxing Day will be a new experience for Van Gaal and five of the six players he signed in the summer. Rooney feels they will benefit from being able to spend time with their families, rather than spend the day on the training pitch. “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.” The omens look good for United ahead of the match. They have only lost once on Boxing Day – against Middlesbrough in 2002 – since the Premier League began. Rooney, however, has bagged just two goals in eight Boxing Day appearances for the Red Devils.