John Terry has warned Manchester United that Chelsea are already committed to regaining the Premier League title next season after all but surrendering it this year.
The champions' limp 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford on Sunday saw United move six points clear with just two matches remaining, but Chelsea captain Terry immediately vowed to do everything possible to wrest back the crown next year.
The 30-year-old said he had made a point of congratulating United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, even though it "hurt" to do so. He said: "I just wished him well. You have to be graceful in defeat and we have thoroughly enjoyed the times we have won.
"Over the years, he has popped in and said congratulations to us and he and his team are well respected across the world. But it does hurt when you do it, and it drives you on as well. You get a focus for next year and we will be aiming to take it off them."
That looks set to be under new management, with Carlo Ancelotti appearing resigned to losing his job at the end of the season. Beating United might have made Chelsea's owner, Roman Abramovich, think twice about wielding the axe.
Terry blamed what is set to be Chelsea's worst season since Abramovich bought the club not on Sunday's defeat but on their worst run in the league for almost 15 years at the end of 2010. He said: "I remember Man United topping the form guide when we were probably down the bottom of it somewhere and that coincided with them overtaking us and giving themselves a nice cushion.
"Credit to our management and the lads for digging in, and the fans as well, who have been brilliant all season, because two months ago we didn't look in it at all and we were worrying about qualification for the Champions League. But we put a good run together and gave ourselves an opportunity coming in to Sunday's game so that deserves credit.
"Two months ago, you could maybe be happy about where we are now but you look back at the start of the season and you wouldn't be happy. We were in control and then we hit a run of bad form and we couldn't really get out of it quick enough. We dropped points home and away and that proved to be vital."
The defeat by United was painful in more ways than one for Terry, who will be hoping to shake off a knock in time for Sunday's final home game of the season against Newcastle.
The defender, who was forced to move into midfield during the second half against United, said: "I got a knock in the first half when I was aiming to shepherd the ball out and Wayne [Rooney] just caught me on my hip. It got worse and worse in the game and, with us having already made our three subs, I swapped with Michael Essien because he can step back there into central defence."
Blackburn have warned their supporters against selling season tickets to United fans for the fixture between the two sides this weekend.
United will secure their 19th league title if they avoid defeat at Ewood Park on Saturday, while Rovers are looking for a positive result as they continue their battle to avoid relegation. The sale of tickets to United fans could mean some supporters are not segregated, causing a security concern.
A statement on Blackburn's official website said: "Reports that some Blackburn Rovers supporters are 'selling' their season tickets to Manchester United fans ahead of Saturday's Premier League fixture at Ewood Park have brought a furious response from the club.
"Club officials – fully supported by Lancashire Police – warn that everything possible is being done to minimise the illegal practice and stress that any offenders will face strong and appropriate action. Rovers have information and intelligence of season-ticket holders selling their tickets directly to United followers – there is even evidence of season tickets being advertised on the internet."
Blackburn's managing director, Tom Finn, said: "This is a very disturbing situation, not to mention a criminal offence, and a situation we could well do without leading up to what is a massive fixture. We are currently monitoring things very closely and, where necessary, will cancel the season tickets, so denying entry to the stadium on the day.
"It also goes without saying that we need as many Rovers fans inside Ewood Park on Saturday as we can. Fervent home support has worked wonders for us in recent years and we need it again."
Meanwhile, the Chelsea defender Michael Mancienne admits he is in the dark over his own long-term future as he sets his sights on helping to keep Wolves in the Premier League.
The 23-year-old, who is approaching the end of his third spell at Molineux on loan from Chelsea, believes staying up would eclipse being part of the side which won the Championship two seasons ago. But Mancienne has no idea whether he will return next season. When asked if he would like to stay at Wolves, Mancienne said: "I've got to go back to Chelsea.
"But beyond that, I can't say what's going to happen because I don't know myself. All I know is staying up would definitely top winning promotion because of the pressure on us.
"Everyone was expecting us to go down but, hopefully, we can prove them all wrong. We're out of the bottom three but I don't think we've got enough points to be safe."