Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has branded arch-rivals Manchester City as the favourites ahead of their derby clash in the English Premier League (EPL) on Sunday.
City are in excellent form at the moment, winning seven of their nine EPL games so far to lead the table with 21 points. United, who endured a torrid start to the season, are two points behind in third place.
“You have to ask the fans. That is not so important who is the favourite. When you look at the facts, they are first and we are second or third. There is a goals difference, a points difference, so they are the favourites I think,” van Gaal was quoted as saying by the Guardian on Friday.
United have played second fiddle to City in recent times, finishing behind their city rivals in three of the past four seasons. The Sky Blues have won the title in two of those seasons and have emerged as the more dominant of the two teams.
Van Gaal insisted that the result of Sunday’s derby will not matter in the overall title race, asserting that it will only be possible to judge if United have closed the gap on City at the end of the season.
“When you compare us with Manchester City we are two points behind. We have stood first in the table then we lost against Arsenal. We have to wait and see if we can develop like a team. We have other players in our selection, more young players than last year, and we have to develop ourselves.
“I am happy that we are more balanced in our selection. If we can compete we have to wait and see because of course we have started very well when you compare us with last year,” the 64-year-old Dutchman said.
“You can only say at the end of the season if we have minimised our gap with our competitors.”
French teenager Anthony Martial has been in explosive form, scoring five goals in nine appearances since his £36m transfer from Monaco in the summer and van Gaal confessed to being taken by surprise with the 19-year-old’s talent.
“We have analysed him and we have bought him because of the analysis of him. In the consistency maybe he has surprised but in the ability, no, because we do know for a long time he can do it,” the former Holland manager remarked.
“That is the same for the other players we have bought but they have to adapt to our philosophy and that is a big positive that he is adapting very quickly but he has to adapt more and develop more. He is doing great, especially because he is 19.”