The former West Ham boss 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 added. “I only use my voice – never my hands or something like that.” The omens are looking good for United ahead of Friday’s match against Pardew’s men. Since the Premier League began, United have won 19, draw two and lost one of their 22 matches played on Boxing Day. Another victory would keep them just about in touch with leaders Chelsea, who are 10 points above them in the standings. Given that the Blues have lost just once this campaign, it would take an almighty effort from United to catch Jose Mourinho’s men, but Van Gaal is not convinced the Londoners have the title sewn up just yet. “In the Netherlands and also in Germany, you have the Christmas champions but that doesn’t mean you will be champion in May or June,” Van Gaal said. After finishing seventh under David Moyes last term, United have set Van Gaal the target of a top-four finish this year, but the former Bayern Munich manager is aiming even higher. “Our goal is still to be champions at the end of the season,” he said. “In a football world, number one is the most important thing. “But it’s not always easy. “That’s why the board have said that our goal is within the first four places but still, with my players and all the staff, we are trying to achieve more than they expect from us.” With four games coming up in 10 days, Van Gaal is sure to rotate his squad in order to try to keep pace with Chelsea and second-placed Manchester City. Adnan Januzaj is one player who should appear at some point. The Belgian enjoyed a successful breakthrough year under Moyes last term, but has started just four games this season. Van Gaal refused to discuss rumours that United could let the 19-year-old go out on loan when the transfer window opens on January 1. “I can’t discuss that with you,” Van Gaal said at his pre-match press conference. “You are not the CEO (chief executive, Ed Woodward).” Unlike his contemporaries – and one of his most famous predecessors, Sir Alex Ferguson – the Manchester United boss prefers to relay messages to his players through his assistant Ryan Giggs, who can regularly 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. “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 opponent, Newcastle’s Alan Pardew, is one of the most vocal managers from the touchline in the top flight. 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. Louis van Gaal believes other Barclays Premier League managers are wasting their time by shouting and bawling at their players from the touchline. Press Association
The 27-year-old reacted angrily during Manchester United’s 1-0 win at St James’ Park earlier this month with television replays appearing to show him spitting at the Magpies striker. Evans denied the charge but the Football Association decided his actions warranted a six-match ban. Cisse was banned for seven games after a clearer spit in the aftermath of the clash between the two players, with the extra game due to an earlier suspension for violent conduct. However, Evans still does not accept his part in the incident and says his family would have been “disgusted” with him if the allegations were true. “I did not have the intent to spit at an opponent, so when the FA charged me with that I could never accept it,” Evans told The Times. “To spit at anyone is one of the most disgusting things you can do; it’s low and cheap. I would never think to spit at someone. You just look like an idiot. “So I can totally understand there is an image around that, and in the British game and our society it’s not something that is accepted, and rightly so. “But I was able to go home and look my mum and dad in the eye because if I’d genuinely spat at someone I think they would have been disgusted in me. “It’s not the background I come from in Northern Ireland. My mum and dad would have given me a rollicking if I had done that.” Evans admitted that he is a ‘habitual’ spitter and has been pulled up on it by his wife Helen several times. He is now working to cut it out of his game and believes it could be a nervous habit. Evans added: “In training this week I turned to spit and thought, ‘No, I can’t spit’ and tried to stop myself. So that’s something I’m trying to work on.” Evans has still to serve part of his ban and will miss the Premier League games against Liverpool, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Chelsea. Press Association Manchester United defender Jonny Evans maintains he did not wilfully spit at Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse.
Jamie Vardy’s 90th-minute strike clinched a deserved win for Leicester as they came from behind twice to seal a 3-2 victory. Robert Huth had levelled with 10 minutes left after the visitors had penned the Baggies back for much of the second half. Leicester remain bottom but are only three points from safety after recording their first back-to-back league wins since September following last weekend’s 2-1 victory over West Ham. They could still become just the third team to beat the drop from the Barclays Premier League after being bottom at Christmas, but Pearson wants them to keep cool. He said: “It was an exceptional goal (from Vardy) but we can’t get carried away. It’s great to get back-to-back wins but we still have an awful lot to do. “We have had some occasions of late, especially in away games, where we don’t feel we have had things go our way. It’s nice to make things go our way. “We weren’t very pleased with ourselves in the first half because in the situation we’re in at the moment you never want to come off the field with regrets. “The players were frustrated with themselves in the first half. We didn’t quite get going. We gave a side who looked to be a little nervy themselves a little cushion. “The second-half performance represented the type of performance we have been putting in for the season.” Darren Fletcher’s first goal since November 2012 and Craig Gardner’s second of the season had given Albion a 2-1 lead at the break, despite David Nugent’s equaliser. Leicester manager Nigel Pearson called for calm but insisted the Foxes were right in the survival hunt after their late show at West Brom. But they fell away in the second half and now sit seven points above the relegation zone after back-to-back defeats. Manager Tony Pulis insisted the Baggies were not safe from the drop, as he said: “Were we ever out of it? We need the points as I said all along. “I thought we played really well in the first half but the three goals were disappointing. Their first goal was lower-league stuff, the ball was pumped forward and they won the first header. “There were parts of that which were really disappointing but we came back well and got the goal and I thought we were the better team in the first half. “In the second half there were two or three incidents where we picked the wrong pass or gave the ball away which gave Leicester the impetus. “One of those was Saido (Berahino) when he had a great opportunity to play Gards (Gardner) in, he was all by himself in the box, and Saido has had a shot from 20 yards. That gave them an impetus which they needed and we didn’t.” Press Association
Press Association Burnley boss Sean Dyche has told striker Danny Ings to keep on smiling – and the goals will return. “We have scored goals and been productive in front of goal. It’s about reminding the players what it takes to do that, different ways of doing that and how we can affect games.” Striker Ashley Barnes insists confidence remains high among the group. Barnes said: “We are in this together. We are striving for one thing – to stay in this league come the end of the season. That is the main aim. “The positivity around the group and the staff remains the same and hopefully will continue.” Barnes has found himself in the spotlight of late following his controversial tackle on Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic. The 25-year-old escaped punishment but Matic was sent off for his reaction to the challenge in a heated confrontation. Barnes says that incident is now behind him. “It has gone,” he said. “I moved on a while back. I am just concentrating on staying in this league.” The relegation-battling Clarets have struggled for goals in recent weeks, despite some gritty performances, scoring just once in six games. The hotly-rated Ings, whose future beyond the end of the season has been the subject of considerable speculation, has not found the net in seven appearances. Dyche hopes the barren spell is not weighing too heavily on the 23-year-old’s mind and has urged him to focus on enjoying his game. Dyche said: “He’s a bright young lad. He’s a very good player and a good young lad who is grounded. “But you can’t actually get inside someone. When that whistle blows it’s down to them to remind themselves of that freedom I speak about. I want players to play that way. “His biggest thing is he puts a lot of demand on himself – and that can be a weakness as well as a strength. It’s good that he has a thirst to improve, as do a lot of the players. But it has to be balanced with that enjoyment. “I often say to him, play with a smile and I’ve told him he’s best when he does. We’re looking to him to continue doing that.” Burnley’s battling performances have earned plaudits and despite the lack of goals, they have collected five points from a tough run of eight games. Amid that run they have beaten Manchester City and taken points off Chelsea and Tottenham. They are in the bottom three but just two points from safety and Dyche is backing his forwards to come good again. He said: “There’s certainly not pressure (on the strikers) from me. We ventured down this road early season when the goals didn’t come as freely then we had a good patch over the Christmas period.
Departing Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard admitted he is devastated he will not play at Anfield again. Press Association The 34-year-old’s final appearance at the ground before his summer move to the Los Angeles Galaxy ended in a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace. Gerrard was at least given a fitting send off, with a guard of honour, mosaics and songs sung in his honour, and he knows he will never again experience such a feeling. “We knew what the narrative was today and the agenda,” he said. “We talked about it and thought it was important we carried the level of importance from Chelsea and Manchester United. “The only difference today was we probably had a bit more control with (Marouane) Chamakh coming into the team. “We have missed him. Puncheon was terrific. Those two gave us a level of control. After the first 15 minutes and the mistake we made, we improved.” On Gerrard Pardew added his plaudits, saying: “It is very difficult to put into words what Steven has done for Liverpool. “I can only speak as a fan and a lover of football for what he has done for England. “He has carried the nation at times and we should all be honoured to have someone who has conducted himself that way.” “It felt very strange,” he said. “I’ve been dreading this moment, I will miss it so much. I have loved every minute and I am devastated that I will not play in front of these supporters again.” Liverpool wasted the chance to end Gerrard’s 17-year Anfield career on a high after Adam Lallana’s opener was superseded by goals from Jason Puncheon, Wilfried Zaha and Glenn Murray’s added time penalty rebound. “He got a wonderful send off and did everything right until the very end,” said manager Brendan Rodgers of his captain. “The support he got was brilliant and what they would expect of him; he has been a wonderful player and gave his all for the club. “The result was disappointing. We made poor defensive errors today across the field and got punished at the end of the first half and in the second half we didn’t defend well enough. “Their attacking players posed us problems and we didn’t cope well enough.” Palace were well worth their win and manager Alan Pardew was pleased with the way his side coped with the occasion.
“Having penned a permanent deal, the 23-year-old is beginning preparations for the 2015-16 Premier League season with the rest of his Hornets team-mates at UCL London Colney.” Vydra scored 16 goals in 31 Sky Bet Championship starts last season, adding to his reputation in Hertfordshire having managed 22 for the club during the 2012-13 campaign. He had a spell in the English top flight with West Brom – again on loan from Udinese – during the following season, but 16 of his 23 league appearances, in which he scored three times, came from the bench. Press Association Czech Republic striker Matej Vydra has completed a permanent move to promoted Watford, the club has announced. The 23-year-old has signed a five-year deal to end his spell with Italian club Udinese after impressing during two loan spells at Vicarage Road. A statement on the club’s official website read: “Watford Football Club is delighted to announce that Matej Vydra has signed a five-year contract with the Hornets.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes believes Jack Butland is better off resting his injured finger than risking further problems by joining up with the England squad for shooting practice next month. England Under-21 international Butland is expected to be called to the senior squad for the Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino and Switzerland. Hughes, though, would rather Butland – whose only full England cap came for the first half of a 2012 friendly against Italy – spend the time productively with the Stoke coaching and medical staff. “Jack has got to be careful with it. There is an international window coming up and it’s a good time to let the injury settle down,” said Hughes. “At the moment he is due to be very sore for a number of weeks, so he needs to keep out of training sessions where balls are getting blasted at him.” Asked if that is what he would tell England manager Roy Hodgson, Hughes simply replied: “Yes”. Stoke gave a debut to £12million signing Xherdan Shaqiri at Carrow Road, the Swiss midfielder setting up Mame Diouf for an early opening goal with a well-delivered free-kick. Hughes confirmed he wanted winger Jonathan Walters to stay at the club, despite interest from Norwich on the eve of Saturday’s match. The 31-year-old has been recovering from illness this week, but has yet to commit to a new contract. The 22-year-old produced a man-of-the-match display to help earn a 1-1 draw at Norwich on Saturday. Afterwards, Hughes revealed Butland had suffered a fracture around his knuckle while training on Thursday, but after treatment was able to play through the pain barrier. Hughes said: “Norwich did make a bid, but it was nowhere near our valuation. “That (coming so close to the match) was probably a bit of mischief. “But it happens, I have probably been guilty of it myself in the past, so I am not going to be holier than thou and criticise Norwich for that. “It was predictable really that it was going to come out, so we haven’t got a problem.” Hughes added: “Jonathan wants a little bit more in terms of the lengths of a new contract, but we are hopeful we can come to an agreement. “But if we don’t, then we will probably keep him and let his contract run down.” Sections of the Norwich crowd made it clear of their feelings towards the former Ipswich man, who remains a target for Canaries manager Alex Neil. Hughes said: “Wherever Jonathan has gone he has affected people’s perceptions of him and that wouldn’t be an issue for him.” Press Association
Last season they went to Old Trafford and enjoyed the majority of chances only to lose 3-0, but Rodgers is confident there will be no repeat of the shambolic defensive performance against the Hammers. Dejan Lovren came in for most criticism as his mistake led to the crucial second goal but his manager has backed the Croatia international, who endured a tough start to his Liverpool career last season, to bounce back. “Like all the players know we performed below our level in that game but it was a collective,” added Rodgers. “We can’t isolate any performance on to one player. Dejan knows he made a mistake and you have to live with that as a player. “We never stick the blame on to one player. We fell below the standards in that game. “In his first three games he showed he has that quality and consistency to defend well, so the key is letting go of the mistake and showing your character.” Liverpool will be without suspended playmaker Philippe Coutinho on Saturday after his red card against West Ham, so striker Danny Ings or winger Jordon Ibe are in contention to start. “There is no timeline as to when he will be fit to participate in the game but he is obviously back in training, which is good,” said Rodgers. “He looked really sharp in training, probably the best he’s looked fitness-wise for 18 months, and it will be really good when he gets back. “I can never say that (he is over the worst of his injuries) because I don’t want to sit here and something happens in a couple of months’ time. “I can only look at what I see and from my experiences in the past I don’t want to put any timeline on him coming back. “I am grateful for the work done in America, for our own medical team who have done a brilliant job to do everything they possibly could to get Daniel back to a level of fitness. “He has worked hard. He has joined in with the group and we will take it from there, day-by-day.” Liverpool go into Saturday’s game having been humiliated 3-0 at home by West Ham before the international break which saw them concede their first goals of the season. Having only scored twice in four matches – with those coming in the opening two games – the side are also struggling up front. The England striker, who spent most of the summer undergoing rehabilitation in the United States, returned to full training with the rest of the squad this week after recovering from a hip operation in May. He will not be ready for Saturday’s match against Manchester United at Old Trafford but his impending return will boost a goal-shy squad which has scored just two goals in four matches and none in their last two. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes striker Daniel Sturridge is the fittest he has been for 18 months, but will still handle him with caution. Press Association
“It has been a long but sensational 24 hours,” said the defender, after covering 750 miles with another 250 still to do to get back to the newborn. “I flew up with the squad yesterday. My wife had had no twinges at that point and then she rang me at seven o’clock to say she had started to feel some contractions but wasn’t sure whether they were Braxton Hicks false ones or not. “I said ‘Give it a couple of hours’ and then she rang me at 10.30 to say ‘This is it, this is happening’. “One of the sports scientists had brought my car, fortunately, in case I had to get back. “Me and the player liaison took two hours each in the car driving back and I took her (his wife) to hospital and we got there about four in the morning and she gave birth at 9.25am. “I had to leave at half-10 as I spoke to the management and they were keen for me to play. I love this place, the atmosphere, and I had family coming so I didn’t want to let them down. “I flew up with the directors, Delia Smith and (husband) Michael Jones – the owners – and they were great. “I got here a bit late, missed the captains’ meeting, ran in, got dressed, was ready with the lads, scored a goal – brilliant. Press Association Norwich captain Russell Martin reflected on a “sensational” 24 hours after a mad dash home from Merseyside for the birth of his third child before returning to score the equaliser at Anfield. “It will be a great story to tell the wee man. “I hadn’t slept a wink. I was running on empty towards the end – I was absolutely gone – but it was a great day and it makes it all worth it.” Martin admits it has been such a rush he and his wife have still not had time to pick a name. “I don’t know what he’s called yet,” he said. “We’ve only had nine months to decide! “We are still in fierce debate. I was only there 45 minutes. “I can’t wait to get home and have a cuddle.” The 29-year-old had travelled up with the team and was preparing for the game against Liverpool when he got the call to go home. He made it in time for the arrival of his yet-to-be-named son, weighing in at 8lbs, and then had a swift turnaround to get back for the 4pm kick-off after no sleep and promptly scored.
Chelsea have signed goalkeeper Marco Amelia on a free transfer. Press Association The former Italy international began his career with Roma and also spent four years at AC Milan, before joining Serie B side Perugia last season. He had been training with the Blues at their Cobham headquarters and impressed enough to earn a deal. Academy keeper Jamal Blackman, 21, who has yet to make a first-team appearance, has been on the Chelsea bench in recent weeks. Courtois is expected to be back in action in December after suffering knee ligament damage in training last month. Boss Jose Mourinho has drafted in the 33-year-old free agent as cover for Asmir Begovic, with first-choice Thibaut Courtois currently out injured. Amelia has agreed a contract until the end of the season and will be available for the Blues when they return to Premier League action against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge a week on Saturday.