David Moyes bemoaned Manchester United’s "terrible" defending after their 3-1 defeat to Chelsea, and was left once again having to insist that he will still not "throw in the towel" in the title race.
United are stranded in seventh place in the Premier League table, 14 points behind the leaders Arsenal, after a loss which Moyes put down entirely to poor defending. "I thought we played quite well throughout the game, but the game came down to two set-pieces and we didn’t defend them well," Moyes said afterwards. "That was probably the difference.
"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.
"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, didn’t defend it well enough in the second phase."
Mourinho said afterwards that he could not foresee United retaining their Premier League title, as it would need all three leaders to collapse. "I don’t think David will be upset if I say the reality: 14 points difference [to Arsenal], and 13 and 12 [to Manchester 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."
But Moyes promised that United would not stop trying to retain their title until it was mathematically impossible. "What we won’t do is throw the towel in until we can’t get there,” he said. "The job is to try and finish first."
Chelsea 3 Manchester United 1 player ratings
Chelsea 3 Manchester United 1 player ratings
1/22 Petr Cech 6/10
Stopped efforts from Young and Welbeck but little to do as United struggled. Troubled more by his own footwork before Hernandez consolation
2/22 Branislav Ivanovic 6/10
Wasted chance after good work from Ramires on return from three weeks out. Untroubled defensively for long spells but lost Hernandez for goal
3/22 Gary Cahill 7/10
Calm head in opposing area allowed the centre-back to square for Eto’o second on stroke of half-time. Header led to Chelsea’s third as well
4/22 John Terry 6/10
The former England captain enjoyed one of quieter games against Manchester United as the champions failed to create until the game was over
5/22 Cesar Azpilicueta 6/10
Quick to sense danger as Welbeck prepared to shoot before break, pressurising him with tackle. Got forward when he could - which was often
6/22 Ramires 7/10
Brazilian enforcer was quick to snuff out danger from United midfield and provided platform for attacking team-mates to cause damage further upfield
7/22 David Luiz 6/10
First in the book after scything down Valencia before being chastised by his manager for positional inaccuracies. Held ground with authority
8/22 Willian 6/10
Surprise starter and gave the ball away in opening quarter before settling into rhythm. Caused United problems with his strong running
9/22 Oscar 6/10
Shot wide as Chelsea found their feet following a slow start. Wrongly chose to scissor-kick when could have headed in. Taken off for Mikel
10/22 Eden Hazard 7/10
Quiet beginning for the in-form Belgian playmaker but began to cut in from the left wing at will as Chelsea turned the screw and won at a canter
11/22 Samuel Eto'o 7/10
Speculative shot looped in for opener before making the most of poor United defending to double his Premier League tally in a single afternoon
12/22 David De Gea 5/10
Could do little with Eto’o’s first but the Spaniard should be disappointed with his efforts for the Cameroon forward’s second and third strikes
13/22 Rafael 5/10
Not enjoying best season and struggled to cope with pace and intensity. Completely switched off for Eto’o’s second and lucky to stay on after Cahill challenge
14/22 Jonny Evans 5/10
Cut out Hazard cross in opening quarter but unable to offer much resistence thereafter. Will never be an able replacement for Rio Ferdinand
15/22 Nemanja Vidic 5/10
Left dawdling as he played everyone onside for Eto’o’s second. Poor afternoon capped as mindless lunge on Hazard rightfully saw him dismissed
16/22 Patrice Evra 6/10
Found the side netting with early foray forward but effect on game waned. Given the runaround by Chelsea’s incisive passing and movement
17/22 Phil Jones 5/10
First appearance for a month and it showed. Slow to close down Eto’o for Chelsea’s opener before a typically robust challenge on Luiz
18/22 Michael Carrick 6/10
Unwittingly forced Eto’o shot up over De Gea. Stuck to task well but not the personality United needed against a Chelsea side right in their groove
19/22 Antonio Valencia 6/10
Eager to make an impression in the opening minutes but strong challenges from Luiz and Ramires appeared to scare him out of the game
20/22 Adnan Januzaj 7/10
Multi-nationalist caused problems for home defence with his tricky footwork and wingplay and was United’s best chance of creating anything of note
21/22 Ashley Young 6/10
Returned from shoulder injury and caused problems early on. Needless booking for pulling back Ramires after ceding possession. Quiet after break
22/22 Danny Welbeck 6/10
Came into match on form and linked up well with Young but just does not offer the threat of Rooney or Van Persie. Slow to get shot away in first half
With United struggling as badly as they have been, Moyes did concede that they were not meeting expectations, and said it would be a "massive challenge" to transform their fortunes.
"It’s a difficult task, but I will show perseverance and do what’s right. We have players to come back, and this is a project that I’m going to improve as we go along. There will be 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."
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres injured the lateral ligament in his knee during the game and will be out for "weeks", according to Mourinho.
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 praised referee Phil Dowd after the game and suggested that some other managers ought to be more even-handed in their treatment of officials. "Other managers – not David – say the opposite where their players make the referee’s life very difficult, and because of them the refs make wrong decisions and are then criticised. Maybe we need a managers’ meeting with the referees as we had in the summer. Some managers have forgotten the meeting.
"Maybe I am very naïve when I criticise my players, because the others don’t. They cry. They cry when it’s not going in their favour. When the other day they get a penalty or don’t, and when the pundits are friends and wear the same shirts as them."
When asked if he had a particular manager in mind, Mourinho dodged the question by saying he was speaking about "an under-16 match I watched".
Despite the win, Mourinho admitted that it was not a perfect performance: "We have to improve. I want better. The first 20 minutes were not good. We have to improve. I want to be in control from the beginning, and we were not. They were stronger than us in the beginning."