Louis van Gaal knows finishing above Manchester City is ultimately what matters
Louis van Gaal believes his United team will only be regarded as kings of Manchester if they end the season above City.
United and City will meet for the 170th time on Sunday.
Although Van Gaal won his last derby, City have enjoyed supremacy over their local rivals for the majority of the last few years.
Before the 4-2 win at Old Trafford last term, City had won four derbies in a row and not since the 2012-13 season have United finished above their neighbours in the table.
The year after Sir Alex Ferguson left the club, United finished an eye-watering 22 points behind City, but there does not appear to be such a huge gulf in quality between the two teams.
Van Gaal believes United are a much better side now, but admits he will only be able to gauge how far his men have come at the end of the season.
"I'm happy that we are more balanced in our selection. If you can compete (with City) we have to wait and see," he said.
"Of course we have started very well when you compare it with last year but when you compare (us) with Manchester City we are two points behind.
"We were first at the table then lost at Arsenal. We have to wait and see if we can develop as a team.
"We have more young players in our selection than last year and we have to develop ourselves. Only at end of the season we can say if we have minimised the gap with our competitors."
Van Gaal believes United are underdogs for the derby even though City are without first-team stars Sergio Aguero and David Silva.
''When you look at the facts they are first and we are third,'' the United manager said.
''There's a goal difference, a point difference, and they are first so they are the favourite, I think.''
Van Gaal will not use this week's eight-hour round trip to Moscow as an excuse - despite City staying at home to play Sevilla - but there is certainly a feeling that the trip east has given the visitors a slight disadvantage.
To help matters, the Dutchman put his players through a session the day after the game when they landed in Manchester.
''I hope that we have recovered,'' Van Gaal said. ''We have done everything to help the recovery for the players.
''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 recover.
''It's still a match at a high level and a big travel. We know that in advance and we have done that.''
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 clinched a superb 4-2 win thanks to goals from Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young, Juan Mata and Chris Smalling.
Van Gaal is fully aware of the significance of the fixture to the city's football fans, but he will not get caught up in the excitement of the occasion.
''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.''