Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal praised his team’s gritty performance against Manchester City on Sunday, but admitted that determination and willpower alone will not be enough and that his side needs to improve.

Speaking to the media after a hard-fought loss against the “noisy neighbours”, Van Gaal admitted his side were not good enough at the moment, but promised to improve things.

“I told the boys their willpower and labour were unbelievable and they can be very proud,” he said. “The fans know the boys are willing to give everything for the shirt of the club – but at the end of the game, we have zero points. In this sport, it is always the goals that count.

“We were so close in spite of playing with ten men. We had more chances [after the red card] than in the first half. We are close but not close enough. We have 13 points out of 10 matches and Chelsea have a lot more, as do Manchester City so we have a problem.

“We need to improve and prove that we are not close but better. We will improve, that I promise.”

United started the game well and were dominating for large spells of the first half, but Chris Smalling’s second bookable offense for a tackle on James Milner reduced the away side to ten men. After that, it was always a case of when and not if City would score.

When asked about the red card, Van Gaal said, “Of course, the red card made a big difference. It influences the opponent as well as ourselves. But even with 10 vs 11, we played a better second half than the first, I think”.

“As a player, you have to control your aggression. When you are on a yellow card, you have to handle things differently. I have said to the player, in a derby you have to be careful. So the second yellow card is a stupid yellow card. You have to trust in your goalkeeper and fellow players who are covering you, also.”

Smalling’s red card, and a shoulder injury to Marcos Rojo in the second half means United once again have a major defensive crisis ahead of next week’s tie against Crystal Palace.

About the Rojo injury, Van Gaal had this to say,” We will have to wait and see, I am not a doctor. Tomorrow we will know more, but I don’t think he shall play against Palace next week.

But I saw a very good Michael Carrick today, and Paddy McNair as well. So I am pleased with what they showed.

But it is a disaster, having so many defenders injured, every week we are playing with a new defense and the understanding is not growing.”

With Chelsea and City running away at the top of the table, Van Gaal admitted that it will be a challenge to catch them but that things were very close between United and City and Chelsea.

“I think we showed against Chelsea last week and City today that we are very, very close. And as a boss, you can be proud of the way we played 10 vs 11. But in the end, we have nothing.”