Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has said he believes it will be tough for Manchester United to claw their way back into the top four after watching the Blues inflict a 3-1 defeat on the stuttering champions at Stamford Bridge.
Striker Samuel Eto’o scored a hat trick for the Londoners before Javier Hernandez pulled a goal back -- but Mourinho stressed that he expected United to carry on fighting.
"Mathematically it is possible but I think it's hard," he said. "It's a 14-point difference -- and 13, and 12. Can they recover to one of these teams? They can.
"But to recover to three of them, it needs three teams to have almost a collapse. For the title it will be difficult for them. What I hope to do is they beat all of them [Chelsea's rivals] to finish top four."
But he insisted the title race was not just between Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea, adding: "The distance is short. Six points from us to Liverpool. Six points to Tottenham.
"Tottenham are winning lots of matches, Liverpool too, and scoring goals. Everton, if they win on Monday [at West Brom], they jump into that."
The win saw Mourinho extend his home unbeaten Premier League run to 71 games with his 100th win in the competition, becoming the manager to reach the landmark in the shortest time.
But he stressed: "I don't care about records. I want to win the next match. It's quite a coincidence -- the first [Premier League win] was against Man United, the 100th was against Man United.
"The important thing for me is that these 100 matches, they gave 300 points to Chelsea -- and, especially today, these three points are very important for us."
Mourinho also explained his decision to play Eto'o ahead of fellow striker Fernando Torres, saying: "I had the creative players and I wanted someone with a bit more quality around the box.
"Fernando is more about space and pace. Man United were trying to be compact and we needed a player like Samuel. He works well for us."
He urged his side to keep on improving and added: "I want better. The first 20 minutes were not good.
"They started the match better than us and they were a bit unlucky that we scored in that moment. When you are better than the opponent, you have to go and try to kill the game."
Chelsea defender John Terry said the Blues had handed out a "pasting" to United, who had Nemanja Vidic sent off in the closing stages.
The result left them in third place, two points off the lead, and Terry said: "I think the result shows we're pushing and trying to keep with Arsenal and Man City. As the manager said, the other two are looking very strong at the moment and it's important we are keeping within touching distance of them.
"The last two weeks have been important because we have worked on different defensive work. We are looking much more of a unit now and together.
"It's very interesting. Man City and Arsenal are looking very good. It was an important game for us today because Man United are still a very good side, but we won and kept very close to leaders."
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.