Moyes defiant but Mourinho writes off United title hopes
Eto'o nets hat-trick to leave struggling champions 14 points off top of Premier League
DAVID MOYES deflected talk of a Manchester United crisis and vowed his team will not give up on defending the Premier League title.
But, following Chelsea's 3-1 victory over United at Stamford Bridge, Jose Mourinho claimed the Old Trafford club's only title hope will be a top-three collapse.
United's latest defeat left them 14 points behind leaders Arsenal and six points outside the top four. Captain Nemanja Vidic was shown a late red card, which means he will miss the next three games, starting with the League Cup semi-final against Sunderland on Wednesday in which United trail 2-1 from the first leg.
Samuel Eto'o became only the fourth player to score a Premier League hat-trick against United, to keep Chelsea in touching distance of Arsenal and Manchester City.
On the title race, United manager Moyes said: "What we won't do is throw the towel in until we can't get there. The job is to try and finish first.
"There are no clever answers, it's about the next game. We had lost one in six before today in the league and I didn't think there was a big difference between the teams.
"It's a difficult task, but it's about perseverance, doing what's right. We have players to come back and this is a project that I'm going to improve as we go along. Changes on the journey. It's a massive challenge. I'd hoped I'd be in a far better position than this, but we're not. As a football person, it's a great challenge to have. It's a challenge."
Asked if United are in crisis, Moyes added: "That's your opinion. Crisis is your word, not my word.
"The priority is to win the next game, a Capital One Cup game (against Sunderland) in midweek. I'll try and do what I can there.
"Of course I'm a little bit surprised, I was hoping to win more and be competing a bit more than we've been, but that'll come."
Mourinho rejected suggestions the title race is now just between Arsenal, City and Chelsea, but suggested United can only fight for fourth place.
"I am nobody to say United are out of it," said Mourinho. "Maybe if I say, some people from United would ask who am I to say that.
"But I don't think David Moyes will be upset if I say the reality: 14 points difference, and 13 and 12 (to City and Chelsea).
"Can they recover to one of these teams? They can. But to three of them? It needs three teams to have almost a collapse. What I hope they do is to beat all of them to finish top four."
Asked if it is a three-horse race to be champions, Mourinho added: "No, the distance is too short. Six points to Liverpool. Six points to Tottenham, who are winning lots of matches. Everton, if they win, jump into that. It's not just three."
Mourinho confirmed that striker Fernando Torres injured lateral knee ligament during the game and will be out for "weeks".
He sustained the injury minutes after replacing Samuel Eto'o late in the second half. This means that Demba Ba will start against Stoke City in Sunday's FA Cup tie.
"It's a pity for Nando," said Mourinho, "but it's time for Demba. It's his chance".
Mourinho then signed off with a question about his extraordinary record of 100 wins -- and 329 points -- in just 142 Premier League games.
"This is a coincidence," he said, "because the first match was against United too and the previous owner of the record was the United manager."
That, of course, was Alex Ferguson, although he took fully 162 matches to reach the same landmark.
Moyes felt Vidic was unlucky to be sent off by referee Phil Dowd, but admitted Rafael was fortunate not to be shown a red card for a wild lunge at Gary Cahill.
The Scotsman was more concerned by the standard of defending from United.
"The game came down to two set-pieces and we didn't defend them well," said Moyes. "That was probably the difference. You always practise, make sure you can do it. People to pick up. It's hard to do more. Two set-pieces settled it.
"The first goal took a deflection and it looped over the goalkeeper, and we didn't deserve to be a goal down. We might have been a goal up. At 1-0 we were still in it, but we were terrible at defending the corner kick, we didn't defend it well enough in the second phase.
"We had as many opportunities as Chelsea and didn't take them. In both boxes we didn't do well enough.
"In between we had a big part of the game, but we didn't score when we had chances and we didn't defend corners or set-plays well enough.
"I thought Vidic wasn't a sending off, but I've seen Rafa's and I think that could have been one." (© Daily Telegraph, London)