Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal is "not happy" with the Premier League's hectic Christmas schedule, saying, "I don't think it is good for players, neither for the families."
The Red Devils face six fixtures throughout December—three within eight days between 20-28—something Van Gaal believes is unfair for all involved. Joe Bernstein of the Daily Mail reported his comments:
I’m not happy but I cannot change it. I don’t agree with it because I don’t think that it is good for the players that they play another match within two days. In December, it shall be like that.
We also have families. I also have a wife and kids and grandchildren and I cannot see them this Christmas. But I want to work in the Premier League, I have to adapt and I shall adapt. But I don’t think it is good for players, neither for the families.
The Sun's Martin Blackburn, tweeted via Jacquie Beltrao of Sky News, provided a visual take on Van Gaal's comments:
Many other European leagues—most notably La Liga and the Bundesliga—offer their stars plenty of rest across the festive period. Players based in Spain will receive two weeks off, while the German division takes a five-week hiatus before Christmas, per WhoScored.com. During this time, most Premier League teams will complete 11 matches, including an FA Cup third-round tie.
The lack of Champions League football makes things slightly easier for Van Gaal. Arsenal have to travel to Galatasaray on Dec. 9, despite having already qualified for the knockout stages of the competition. Such journeys could have an effect once the end of December arrives, particularly when injuries have piled up earlier in the campaign.
This is something Van Gaal knows all about. Angel Di Maria's injury during Saturday's 3-0 win over Hull was the 42nd suffered to members of United's first team in the four months since the manager took over, per Ian Whittell of The Telegraph.
Although Marcos Rojo and Radamel Falcao returned from injury against the Tigers, the likes of Phil Jones, Jonny Evans, Rafael, Daley Blind and Luke Shaw are among those to remain on the sidelines, noted in Bernstein's report. The Christmas schedule only exasperates the likelihood of further problems.
Still, a positive run of form would soon quash Van Gaal's irritations. United have now won three in a row since the loss to Manchester City and currently sit in the final Champions League place. Stoke head to Old Trafford on Tuesday night before tricky ties against Southampton and Liverpool kick the Christmas schedule into gear.
Seven points from these three games would be an excellent return for United, who highlighted their increasing confidence against Hull, according to Sky Sports' Niall Quinn: "They are in serious form at the moment. Even the fans are reacting positively, they have really enjoyed the last three wins and the performances have meant so much. The players are becoming more comfortable and their true form starts to show."
Van Gaal himself acknowledged United's improving form after goals from Chris Smalling, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie put Hull to the sword, per BBC Sport:
United traditionally came on strong after Christmas when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge. David Moyes led the side to three losses from their first five fixtures after 2014 arrived, putting into a place a string of results that would eventually see him sacked.
Van Gaal can't afford to do the same. United's minimum aspirations this year are to regain Champions League football, something the club desperately needs if it is to remain financially competitive with England's elite. The Christmas run has the potential to shape the side's prospects for the season and provide Van Gaal with a boost when outlaying his plans for the future.
Such a busy period creates similar headlines each year. Van Gaal will ensure his players are protected—highlighted by his decision to ease Falcao back in from the bench—and is experienced enough to manage such a schedule well. If all goes well, next year's December run will be even worse.