Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford of Manchester United in action during the Barclays Premier League match against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium on 20 MarchGetty

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal believes the absence of Europa League football from their schedule will help them challenge for a place in the top four. The Red Devils showed grit and character to secure an impressive 1-0 win over arch rivals Manchester City, which has taken them to within one point from fourth placed City and level on points with West Ham.

Marcus Rashford was the main man yet again for the Red Devils, scoring the winner in the first half and staking a claim yet again for a regular place in the starting line-up. The 18-year-old has already scored twice against Arsenal and his most recent goal suggests that he is one for the big occasion.

The Red Devils, who came on the back of a 1-1 draw with Liverpool in the second leg of the round of 16 tie of the Champions League on Thursday, were feeling the pressure in the second half when the legs were tiring but they held tight and managed to close down City, who were resembling a team who had given up on the title. Chris Smalling was lucky to escape a second yellow but the England international held his own at the back and was first to every ball in front of their penalty area.

"We played a very good first half with a goal and also had more chances and we didn't receive a lot of chances against us," he told Sky Sports, as quoted by Goal.

"In the second half we had to start again, we started well but after that we had to fight till the end because we were tired from playing on Thursday. They played on Tuesday so that is two days more rest which is important.

"I am a very proud manager today. This victory was necessary, the gap was four points and now is one point, plus we are equal with West Ham which is important, what is possible? I cannot say. We do not have Thursday matches now and that is a positive thing," he added.