Louis Van Gaal believes Manchester United have Manchester City in their sights and is confident that overhauling the champions to finish in second place is a realistic target.
United host Aston Villa on Saturday and as City do not play until Monday evening – at Crystal Palace – Van Gaal’s team can move on to 62 points, one ahead of their rivals until then at least. Even if City defeat Palace, United will have the chance to overhaul City when they welcome them to Old Trafford a week on Sunday, provided they beat Villa.
Asked about the prospect of finishing second ahead of City, Van Gaal said: “Of course. I cannot deny that, because we have Manchester City at home. We have the strongest record at home so it’s possible. But Manchester City is a top team so it shall not be easy. First I think we have to concentrate on playing Aston Villa. In the away match we played 11 against 10 for a lot of time and we couldn’t score [in December’s 1-1 draw]. They can organise and play on the counterattack, and that’s always difficult.”
2-1 in their last outing, a display complimented by
. Yet Van Gaal said praise from
would carry more weight.
“The comments of legends are always important because they have a lot of fans,” he said.
“And fans are listening to the legends so it’s nice for Manchester United. It’s nice for the players, and also nice for the manager when legends are saying that. I think that if Ferguson says that then I am more proud because he can judge as a manager much better than ex-players what is the achievement in such a game.”
Foot the bill
Van Gaal added that he is due to meet the Scot soon and joked that the former manager would foot the bill.
"He is always on his way so it's difficult to speak with him. But we have made an appointment and he shall pay – that is very important," he said, adding Robin Van Persie will probably not recover from an ankle injury in time for the derby.
“I don’t think so . . . I have explained he’s still not in my group, then he cannot play. And everybody is fit. So I have to compare players also.”
Radamel Falcao recently played for the under-21s against Tottenham Hotspur, and Van Gaal stated Van Persie could follow suit. “That is possible, like the others.”
Despite selecting an unchanged team for the wins over Spurs and Liverpool, Van Gaal denied his team is settled.
“No, because I am not only looking to my own team. Of course, when you play that way as a coach you are not willingly [going] to change that team. But I always have my eyes open.”