PHIL JONES believes now is the time to crank up the pressure on Manchester City.
The Blues are licking their wounds after Tuesday night's 2-1 defeat to Napoli left them on the brink of a costly Champions League exit.
Now they have to raise their spirits for a tough Premier League encounter with Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Manchester United will have the opportunity to close the gap to two points on City by beating Newcastle at Old Trafford.
And, while Jones is sure the Red Devils will be in the title shake-up come what may, the 19-year-old defender recognises this would be a good time to apply some heat.
"City have done fantastically this season," Jones said. "But they do have some tough games coming up. I don't care how good you are, teams can be put under pressure. This is a difficult league to be in.
"It would be nice to reach top spot by Christmas. But it is not essential.
"Don't be writing us off if we are not there by January."
It is a measure of Jones' maturity that he is not choosing to hide away, as it was his own goal that put United on the back foot in their Champions League encounter with Benfica on Tuesday.
An eventual 2-2 draw means it is highly likely Alex Ferguson's men will have to settle for second spot, and a very dangerous knockout stage draw, even if they get the point they need against FC Basel in Switzerland next month in order to qualify.
But Jones is refusing to beat himself up about the personal setback, which came a week after he was compared to legendary defender Franco Baresi by England coach Fabio Capello.
"It happens," Jones said. "Own goals happen to the best of players.
"I am not going to let my head drop. You win some, you lose some and then you get on with it. Apart from that, I thought I played reasonably well."