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Benitez: Liverpool must win at Old Trafford

Rafa Benitez has conceded that Liverpool must win at Manchester United to claim the Premier League title.

The Reds' title challenge suffered another set-back on Sunday when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Manchester City at Anfield. They now lie seven points adrift of Sir Alex Ferguson's champions, but they still have to play at Old Trafford.

And Benitez admits that nothing less than victory against their biggest rivals will do, otherwise their dreams of a first title since 1990 will be gone.

"I think we will have to beat Manchester United now," said Benitez, whose side are due at United on March 14. "Clearly it is more difficult now. It is a bad result. We have to beat Middlesbrough and Sunderland and start thinking about if we can win at Old Trafford.

"You never know what can happen but clearly they can win games and win games without playing well.

"I have confidence that we can beat Middlesbrough and Sunderland and then it will be a different situation. There are still 12 games to go, you can't say anything is finished."

And City boss Mark Hughes summed up the situation, saying: ''Manchester United will have to slip up now, and they do not do that very often.

''There are still a lot of games to go, but it is very much in their hands and they will have to lose three games now. You cannot see them doing that.''

Hughes' side did his former employers a massive favour after Craig Bellamy's deflected shot put City ahead, only a late Dirk Kuyt strike preserving Liverpool's 14-month unbeaten home league record.

''That was an excellent performance and we were good value for the point and probably deserved more,'' Hughes added. ''We were playing a side going for the title, and after we had been involved in a tiring UEFA Cup game in Denmark on Thursday.

''But we put in an excellent performance, we were strong and resilient and we deserved the result.''

Hughes also praised Bellamy, whose shot from the edge of the box secured the lead in the second period.

He said: ''It is always the case a club's ex-players want to do well against them. Craig is a proud man and maybe he feels he did not get a fair crack of the whip when he was at Liverpool. He has played extremely well since he joined us.''

A despondent Benitez refused to be drawn on his contract negotiations, which again cast a shadow over Anfield and would only say: ''I have not said anything about this in a press conference, and we must now concentrate on football.''

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