Louis van Gaal: Man Utd manager on 'evil' Christmas schedule

Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney was injured prior to the 2006 and 2010 World Cups

The lack of a winter break in English football is the "most evil thing of this culture", according to Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal.

Spain, Italy, France and Germany all have a break at the festive period, and Van Gaal believes not having one costs English clubs and the national side.

England have not reached a major semi-final since 1996, and the United boss said Premier League players are "exhausted at the end of the season".

He added: "I think you should change."

United will have seven games between 12 December and 13 January, with three Premier League fixtures in the space of nine days between 19 and 28 December.

Previous research has shown players are more likely to suffer injuries in the second half of the season in leagues where there is not a winter break.

Former England managers Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello said their players were not fresh for major tournaments, while Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has said a break favours other European teams in the latter stages of the Champions League.

Chris Smalling
Chris Smalling has worn the captain's armband on several occasions already

'Smalling will be future captain'

Van Gaal says defender Chris Smalling will become United's captain.

Smalling is set to start Sunday's Premier League derby against Manchester City at Old Trafford, having been sent off at Etihad Stadium last season.

Van Gaal called Smalling "stupid" after his red card, but said he is capable of succeeding skipper Wayne Rooney and vice-captain Michael Carrick.

"When they are gone then Chris Smalling can do that," said Van Gaal. "So I push him also in that situation."

England centre-back Smalling, 25, was dismissed in the first half as United lost 1-0 to City last November, but has since established himself as a first-team regular under Van Gaal.

Smalling, who signed a new four-year contract in April, is the only player to have started every match under the Dutchman.

Van Gaal says Smalling's improved communication has been crucial to his development, leading to him wearing the armband on several occasions, including during the defeat by PSV Eindhoven last month.

"He has done it by himself," Van Gaal added. "There is a lot of advice. It is about how we defend as a team. He is a part of that and I wanted him to speak.

"He also has the talent to speak. That makes him easy to coach. Because of that I made him a leader of the team."