Manchester United manager David Moyes refuses to give up on retaining the Premier League title, despite falling 14 points adrift of leaders Arsenal following a 3-1 defeat at Chelsea.
A Samuel Eto’o hat-trick guided Chelsea to a comfortable win at Stamford Bridge and in the process handed United a seventh league defeat of the season.
Moyes, whose side remains seventh in the table, said: “What we don’t do is throw the towel in until we can’t get there. The job is to finish first and we’ll try to do that.”
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho also refused to rule United out of the title race – but said it would need a dramatic loss of form from those teams ahead of them to revive the reigning champions’ hopes.
He said: “I am sure David won’t be upset with me if I tell the reality. It is a 14-point difference to Arsenal, then 13 to Manchester City and 12 to us.
“It needs three teams to almost have a collapse, so the title will be difficult for them. What I hope is that they beat all the other teams to finish in the top four.”
United started the match strongly but were guilty of poor defending as Eto’o became the fourth player to score a treble against them in the Premier League era.
The defeat also extended Moyes’s wait for an away win against the ‘big four’ teams in the top flight.
In 48 away matches at United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal – encompassing his time as Everton and United boss – he has drawn 18 and lost 30.
United are now six points off the Champions League places with 16 matches remaining.
“This is a project,” added Moyes. “I know what I’m going to do and there will be changes as we go along the journey.
“It is a massive challenge. I hoped we’d be in a better position than we are, but we are not.”
United were without injured strikers Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie and their problems increased when Captain Nemanja Vidic was sent off for a challenge on Eden Hazard in the closing moments.
Vidic is now out of Wednesday’s Capital One Cup semi-final second leg against Sunderland at Old Trafford, where United will try to overturn a 2-1 deficit.
The Serbian could have been joined on the sidelines by right-back Rafael, who was only booked for a two-footed lunge on Gary Cahill.
Moyes said: “I thought Nemanja’s was a yellow card but I thought, on another day, the one afterwards when Rafael got a yellow card could have been a red card.”