Phil Jones insists Manchester United are “not a million miles away” from the Premier League's top three despite falling 14 points adrift of the summit by losing 3-1 at Chelsea.
Samuel Eto'o scored a hat-trick in a result which forced captain Nemanja Vidic, who was sent off late on, to concede that United's title defence is over with Arsenal, Manchester City and third-placed Chelsea 14, 13 and 12 points ahead, respectively.
"I don't think we're a long way away from the teams at the top," Jones told manutd.com.
"If Chelsea are one of the best two or three teams in the country, then I think you have to say we can be right up there alongside them - our performance in the first half proves that.
"We're not a million miles away, I'm telling you, but we need to stick together if we're going to turn it around."
Jones admitted United's defeat at Stamford Bridge came down to being unable to take their chances and sloppy defending.
"We started really well," Jones said.
"I thought in the first 30 minutes we were terrific. We set out and started in exactly the way we spoke about beforehand.
"We took the game to Chelsea, they couldn't get out of their own half and we totally dominated the match from the first whistle.
"We just couldn't find the goal that we probably needed to kick on from there.
"Then they had a bit of luck for the first goal and we conceded a couple of sloppy ones.
"Conceding just before half-time never helps."
United will also bid to overturn a deficit in the Capital One Cup semi-final with Sunderland.
David Moyes' men trail 2-1 entering the second leg at Old Trafford and will be without Vidic, who will serve a three-match ban following his dismissal at Chelsea.
Jones added: "Now we have to bounce back and we have an important game on Wednesday night."
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