Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal suggested Manchester City are the marginal favourites ahead of this weekend’s derby at Old Trafford.
The Manchester rivals meet for the 170th time in their history, with City two points ahead of United at the Premier League summit – Louis van Gaal’s men sitting behind Arsenal on goal difference.
Van Gaal’s predecessor David Moyes infamously described Liverpool as “favourites” before Brendan Rodgers’ team claimed a dominant 3-0 win at United in March 2014 – hastening the Scot towards the exit door during his torturous spell in charge.
City did not receive such a ringing endorsement from Van Gaal, but the 64-year-old placed the onus on Manuel Pellegrini’s table-topping side.
“You have to ask the fans. It is not important who is the favourite,” he said.
“When you look at the facts, they are first and we are second or third.
“There is a goal difference, there is a points difference, so they are the favourites, I think.”
United beat City for the first time in five Premier League attempts when the sides clashed at Old Trafford in April, coming from behind to triumph 4-2 after Sergio Aguero gave the visitors a 1-0 lead.
But Van Gaal declined to declare it as his finest moment to date as United manager, pointedly reminding his players of the subsequent drop-off in form that saw them win one of their final six matches in the 2014-15 season and finish below City in the table.
“It was not my best moment because I think we started badly in that match,” he said.
“Of course, we won but it cost us a lot of energy I believe.
“We played better matches last year.”
Van Gaal complained before the midweek Champions League fixtures that United’s trip to face CSKA Moscow on Wednesday placed them at a disadvantage, considering City entertained Sevilla at the Etihad Stadium.
The Dutchman outlined his squad’s preparations for the derby, which have focused largely on recovery.
“I hope that we have recovered,” he added. “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 went to the AON Training Complex again for recovery.
“So we have not trained too much today. We have to recover because it is still a match on a high level.”