Man United finally dancing to van Gaal's tune
MAN UNITED 3
(Wayne Rooney 23, 36, Robin van Persie 53)
(Papiss Cisse 87-pen)
The swagger's not quite back yet.
But Manchester United are at least dancing on the pitch once more.
At Old Trafford yesterday, Wayne Rooney played the role of principal dancer as the Red Devils beat Newcastle 3-1 to consolidate third place in the Premiership table.
The England striker might have grabbed the headlines with his two goals, and Robin van Persie continued his good run with one, but this was in truth a team effort that reminded one of the togetherness Sir Alex Ferguson worked so hard to forge during his reign.
This is also further evidence that manager Louis van Gaal, who was recently given the nod of approval by Fergie, is on the right track.
The Dutchman had earlier been criticised for not beefing up the defence adequately, but if the team continue to churn out attacking performances like these, no one will have grounds for complaint.
With three defenders and two strikers sandwiching five midfielders, the hosts functioned like a well-oiled unit in the final third of the field.
Rooney and Juan Mata initiated attacks from deeper central positions while Radamel Falcao and van Persie made a nuisance of themselves in the Newcastle penalty box. Even Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia were lighting up the flank attacks.
It was just too much for the Magpies to cope. By the 23rd minute, the visitors crumbled.
The build-up was as fluid as they come.
Mata's pin-point cross reached the far post, where Falcao slid in to cross the ball first-time to present Rooney with the honour of tapping the ball home.
If the move was impressive, so was Falcao's unselfishness.
Thirteen minutes later, the Colombian showed grit with a lunging challenge that saw him win the ball back and clear the path for the second goal.
Mata's exquisite pass gave Rooney a chance he simply couldn't miss.
It might not be Total Football, but this was total commitment.
In the 53rd minute, van Persie added the finishing touch. This time, Rooney turned provider, with a lob over the scampering Newcastle defence.
And the performance was completed.
Not even Papiss Cisse's consolation goal from the spot could dampen the home fans' excellent mood.
With this victory, Man United became the first team in English football to notch 50 Boxing-Day wins.
The fine form they take into the jam-packed end-of-year schedule must be heartening.
Van Gaal has guided his team to 22 points out of a maximum 24.
With eight wins from 10 home games, he has restored the fortress at the Theatre of Dreams.
The mould of a united outfit is starting to take shape.
After a deep slumber, United are finally looking like one again.
Van gaal: why Rant and Rave?
Louis van Gaal believes other Premier League managers are wasting their time by shouting and bawling at their players from the touchline.
Unlike his contemporaries - and one of his most famous predecessors, Sir Alex Ferguson (above right) - the Manchester United boss prefers to relay messages to his players through his assistant Ryan Giggs, who can be seen on the edge of the technical area at Old Trafford.
Not once has van Gaal appeared on the touchline, home or away, this season.
That has come as something of a surprise to United fans, but the Dutchman insists it would be a waste of time if he ranted at his team from the side of the pitch.
"I don't see any influence from me when I am there shouting," he said before last night's 3-1 win over Newcastle. "They are not understanding you.
"With the fans in the Premier League shouting so much, they can't understand you.
"That's why I'm always on the bench. You have trained them to read the game by themselves all week.
"It is much more important that they are more involved with the game, that they make their own decisions. It is like a child - you educate them."
Van Gaal's Boxing Day opponents, Newcastle's Alan Pardew, is one of the most vocal managers from the touchline. Pardew's passion has boiled over into anger at times, which has been costly for the Magpies boss.
Last season, he was banned for seven matches for headbutting Hull's David Meyler just two months after he was warned about his conduct following a foul-mouthed pitch-side tirade towards Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini.
Pardew has endured a number of spats with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, and also received a two-match ban for pushing linesman Peter Kirkup two years ago.
"I have never had a fight," van Gaal said. "I only use my voice - never my hands or something like that."
Van Gaal refused to discuss rumours that United could let 19-year-old Belgian Adnan Januzaj go out on loan when the transfer window opens on Jan 1.
"I can't discuss that with you," van Gaal told the media. "You are not the CEO (chief executive, Ed Woodward)." - PA Sport.