Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has played down the significance of Sunday’s derby against Manchester City in the Premier League title race.
City are without Sergio Aguero and David Silva for the game, but Van Gaal believes his team are underdogs for the 170th meeting between the two sides.
The Dutchman said: “When you look at the facts they are first (in the league) so they are favourites, I think.”
Van Gaal will not use United’s eight-hour round trip to Moscow in midweek – while City stayed at home to play Sevilla – as an excuse, but there is certainly a feeling that the trip east has given the hosts a slight disadvantage.
To help matters, Van Gaal put his players through a session in the team hotel in Moscow the day after the game and then brought them to Carrington after they landed.
He said: “I hope that we have recovered.
“We have done everything to help the recovery for the players.
“We did it already in the hotel. We stayed in the hotel the next day, we had a smooth flight, after the flight we came to the AON Training Complex for recovery, we didn’t train too much today.
“We have to afford and we have to recover.
“It’s still a match at a high level and a big travel and we know that in advance and we have done that.”
Derby won’t decide title
Van Gaal took every opportunity to play down the significance of the match at his pre-match press conference.
Even the fact that United could end the weekend at the top of the table did not seem to excite the manager too much.
When asked if United could prove they were genuine title contenders with a win, Van Gaal said: “I don’t think that is now a big question.
“When we win Manchester City we are first in the table (if Arsenal drop points to Everton) but that doesn’t mean we are the champion.
“The champion is only in May. It’s a big step when we win that’s true but you also have to continue. That’s also a big question.”
This will be Van Gaal’s third derby since moving to Old Trafford.
He suffered a 1-0 defeat in his first outing at the Etihad Stadium last November, but in the reverse fixture United ended a run of four successive derby defeats by beating City 4-2 at Old Trafford.
Van Gaal is fully aware of the significance of the fixture to the city’s football fans but will not get caught up in the excitement of the occasion himself.
“You have to do your work more rationally and not emotionally,” he said.
“I think for the fans it’s very emotional. I live in a little village and there it is also the talk of the town. I think in Manchester it is more.
“We have to do our work and prepare our game. We have one day less so it’s more difficult.
“We have to do the meetings in shorter time which is more difficult for the players but that is what we have to do and we are doing and we have to hope we beat Manchester City.”
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