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Man United's optimism punctured by defeat at Stoke

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 1, 2014 at 11:50 am •  Published: February 1, 2014

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester United slumped to a 2-1 loss at relegation-threatened Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday to puncture the optimism generated by Juan Mata's arrival and leave the reigning champions with a huge task to finish in the Champions League positions.

United's eighth defeat of a wretched campaign means Liverpool, which currently occupies the fourth and final Champions League place, could go nine points clear of its fierce rival by beating West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.

Charlie Adam scored both of Stoke's goals at Britannia Stadium either side of Robin van Persie's equalizer, with a miserable day for seventh-place United capped by first-half injuries to center halves Jonny Evans and Phil Jones that forced them off. It was Stoke's maiden win over United in the Premier League, and first since 1984.

"I don't know what we have to do to win," said United manager David Moyes.

Everton bounced back from its derby thrashing by Liverpool in midweek by coming from behind to beat Aston Villa 2-1 and climb to fifth above Tottenham, which drew 1-1 at Hull.

Cardiff climbed off the bottom by scoring two goals in 73 seconds at the start of the second half to defeat Norwich 2-1. That left Fulham, which was overwhelmed 3-0 at home to Southampton, two points adrift in last place.

West Ham completes the bottom three even though it beat Swansea 2-0 thanks to a brace by Kevin Nolan. That win was marred by a red card to striker Andy Carroll for elbowing an opponent.

The other match saw Sunderland earn a second straight 3-0 win at Newcastle in the northeast derby, sparking anger and frustration by home fans disillusioned by the sale of star player Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain this week.

Such is the tightness of the bottom half of the table, Sunderland — like Stoke — is now nearer mid-table than the relegation zone.

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