Van Gaal: Villa scarier than City
Louis van Gaal says the prospect of facing Aston Villa scared him more than the idea of taking on Manchester City at Old Trafford.
United will be looking to end a run of four successive Manchester derby defeats on Sunday when City make the short trip across town.
Van Gaal lost his first encounter with United's closest rivals last November, when Sergio Aguero struck the only goal in a 1-0 win for the Blues.
But Van Gaal is confident of victory this weekend, stating that he thinks City's attacking tendencies will work in United's favour.
Van Gaal believes teams that come to Old Trafford looking to scrap for a point are much harder to beat.
Van Gaal is so sure of that theory that he spent less time fretting about Sunday's opposition than he did last week when relegation-threatened Villa came to Old Trafford.
"I had more fear of Aston Villa than Manchester City," the United manager said, before adding: "Aston Villa was more defensive.
"I don't expect Manchester City shall play so defensive as Aston Villa. Then you need a lot of focus and concentration on our defence.
"A long ball is very difficult to defend. But (against) Manchester City, I don't expect very much long balls.
"It's another game and that's why I have less fear against Manchester City in spite of losing 1-0 against them in the last game."
That is not to say he would not cherish his first win over City.
''I dream of it, every player shall dream of the victory,'' the United boss said.
During his nine months in charge, assistant manager Ryan Giggs and club chef Mike Donnelly have taught the Dutchman about United's rivalries.
But if he needed a reminder of the enmity between City and United, he got it this week from his wife Truus, whose hairdresser is a blue.
''I'm not so often in the city, but when I am there, the people are talking about the derby and even when I come home my wife is saying the things they have told her about this derby,'' Van Gaal told MUTV.
''My wife's hairdresser is a Manchester City fan so there is a lot of discussion between these two women.
''I like it. You play football for the fans and I hope we can give our fans the victory."
Bragging rights are not the only thing at stake.
Victory would strengthen United's grip on third place as they would then be four points clear of their 'noisy neighbours'.
A third-placed finish would guarantee direct entry into the Champions League and that is what Van Gaal is aiming for.
''When you win, third place is then reachable and a month ago nobody was thinking about that, besides me, of course," Van Gaal said.
''Third is good because you are certainly qualified for the Champions League and then we do better than the goal that was set in pre-season.''
The fact that United and City are effectively battling for third position shows how disappointing their seasons have been.
But Van Gaal has warned he will be setting out to land the top prize next year, after making a few additions to his squad.
"I want to improve my selection for the next season. Then we can make a bigger step," he said.
"Sir Alex Ferguson has done it before. Jose Mourinho is doing it now.
"Last season he didn't win anything. Now he is winning the title, now I try to do that also."
United's run of five straight league victories has moved them above City, who have won just two of their last seven games in all competitions.
The fact that City have had the edge on their rivals recently does not seem to bother the Dutchman though.
''That's not my history,'' he said.
''The last game we played against them and we had a red card in the 39th minute - that is my history.''
Chris Smalling was the man who was dismissed at the Etihad Stadium.
The defender earned his first booking for blocking Joe Hart as he went to kick the ball out of his hands, and he was cautioned for a second time for clumsily hacking down James Milner.
Van Gaal will remind his players they must stay on the pitch this weekend.
He said: ''In such games always you have to control your aggression and we did not do that then, so I hope we have learned from that moment.
"We have had five red cards this year. It's a record in my career as a manager and that's not good."