Sir Alex Ferguson has already pinpointed the Manchester derby in April as the cornerstone of his team's current attempt to regain their Premier League title.

A 2-0 victory over Stoke, courtesy of penalties from Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov, coupled with leaders Manchester City losing at Everton, helped United draw level on points, and within six goals of their rivals, at the top of the table.

In a campaign that has already produced so many twists and turns, the latest development merely adds to the intriguing plot.

With Ferguson expecting to welcome back the injured trio of Wayne Rooney, Nani and Ashley Young for Sunday's visit to Chelsea, the veteran manager is clearly happy with the current status quo.

"The win is obviously significant, but it's still the last day in January," said Ferguson. "I always see March as the important month and we've got City in April. "We are hopeful Wayne and Nani and Ashley Young might be back for Sunday.

"It's been a good night. But I'm more pleased about our own performance. "I thought it was terrific, we kept our composure and were very patient. Okay, we won with two penalties, but the manner in which we played our football was the main thing."