Van Gaal: Man United’s top four hopes hinge on derby

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Sunday’s Manchester derby is crucial for the top four hopes of both Manchester United and Manchester City.

But United’s need for points is more desperate and manager Louis Van Gaal knows it.

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Van Gaal, 64, admitted in his press conference on Friday that his side must win to keep their slim top four hopes alive as they already trail City by four points heading into the clash at the Etihad Stadium (Watch live, 12 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra).

In years gone by this derby has often been pivotal in the race for the title. This season, with both teams fading as the season climaxes, it’s all about UEFA Champions League qualification.

“I think so. We are now four points behind so you have to win otherwise the gap is bigger and bigger and the [number of] matches that you have to play are not so big,” Van Gaal said. “If we lose, the gap is seven points and we have to play eight matches – then it’s very difficult to recover from that. It is still possible but it’s difficult then because West Ham United are also in front [by two points]. So it is not only City but West Ham United.”

Speaking of the Hammers, Van Gaal’s squad face an FA Cup quarterfinal replay at West Ham in what is their only chance of winning silverware.

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After being knocked out of the Europa League at the Round of 16 stage on Thursday by Liverpool, a defeat to another bitter rival on Sunday could end their hopes of featuring in the UCL next season.

That really would be the final nail in Van Gaal’s coffin.