Soccer-Manchester United refocus on title assault after city blip

Manchester UnitedThe loss was Manchester United's first in the league since Nov. 17. (Reuters)

A chastening home defeat to Manchester City has given Premier League leaders Manchester United all the incentive they need to win against Stoke City on Sunday and move closer to sealing a 20th English league title.

Champions City cut United's lead to 12 points after Monday's 2-1 win at Old Trafford, though with seven games remaining the Premier League trophy appears destined to be prised from their grasp by their neighbours.

City manager Roberto Mancini has already conceded the title to United but a fired-up Stoke, dragged into a relegation battle by a dismal run of form, will be desperate to take at least a point from Alex Ferguson's men in the kickoff. If Mancini is already planning for next season, his City players have not quite given up hope that United might still slip up.

"In our dressing room, we think it is mathematically still possible," said City midfielder James Milner, whose side face Chelsea in an FA Cup semi-final on Sunday. "Hopefully we've put a bit of doubt in there. It could be a bit of a stumble. If this rocks them, then great," he added in reference to Monday's derby victory. The loss was United's first in the league since Nov. 17 and ended a run of six games without conceding a goal.

Ferguson that promised his side would "have a go" on Sunday and have three wins and a draw from their last four trips since Stoke returned to the top flight. Stoke, in 15th but only three points above the drop zone, have just one league win this year. "With the supporters right behind us, the spirit of the club will take us through," said goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

Sunderland sit one place above the drop zone and a highly-charged atmosphere is certain when they head a few miles north to take on bitter rivals Newcastle on Sunday

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