Alan Pardew

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

While most of their fans are unwrapping presents and preparing Christmas dinner, Newcastle United's players will be training ahead of their Boxing Day meeting with league leaders Manchester United.

It's one of the sacrifices footballers make at this time of year, with Alan Pardew acutely aware that his side can't afford a day off - even at this festive time of year - if they're to get a result at Old Trafford.

But the Magpies manager, whose side won at Bolton last Boxing Day, knows that the best gift of all this year for fans, players and staff alike would be three points against Sir Alex Ferguson's men. 

"We'll be in training," Pardew said. "You've got to get up early if you're going to beat Manchester United.

"We'll be up nice and early, get our work done and then send the players home to see their families before they fly to Manchester, so it's a busy Christmas day for our staff."

It's a busy few days, in fact, because United then face Arsenal three days later before hosting Everton on 2nd January.

Having faced reigning champions Manchester City already this month, Pardew's team will now face three of the current top four in the space of just over a week and he accepts that it won't be an easy run of fixtures.

"I think when you looked at the programme at the start, you could see this was a tough run for us - and even tougher now with the results we've had and the injuries we've sustained," said Pardew, who saw his side gain three valuable points at home to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.

"But I'm actually going into it probably more buoyed than any other point of the season. I think we've definitely picked up, we look a little bit more resiliant, we picked up a very important clean sheet on Saturday and I think we'll be in good heart for what is one of the toughest games of the programme: Manchester United away."

Pardew confirmed that he has no fresh injury worries after the weekend's game, although he will be without the suspended Cheick Tiote.