Jose Mourinho believes the destination of the Premier League title is far from a forgone conclusion and expects any side within 10 points of Chelsea to mount a serious challenge for the crown over the coming months.
Chelsea have been the pace-setters from the off this season, going unbeaten in their first 14 matches of the campaign before succumbing to defeat to Newcastle. They remain at the summit of the division, three points ahead of Manchester City.
The champions have been on a strong run of form to move themselves within a single victory of Chelsea, while Manchester United have won six on the spin to climb into the top three positions.
Louis van Gaal’s side are still some way behind the leaders, with Chelsea eight points ahead, but Mourinho marks Manchester United out as a side capable of pipping his to win the trophy come May.
“There is still a long time to go - not even 50 percent of league is played,” Mourinho told reporters at his press conference on Friday.
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“People with less than 10 points difference are in the title race."
Chelsea could relinquish their supremacy come Saturday afternoon should Manchester City be able to record a four-goal win over Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium, with Mourinho’s side not in action until Monday evening against Stoke.
Top spot up for grabs
It would the most significant moment in a title race that had long appeared to have been run, although Chelsea will be confident they could restore their advantage over City by recording a win over the Potters.
Chelsea did, however, lose on their last visit to the Britannia Stadium - with Stoke 3-2 victors last season - and Mourinho will ensure there will be no repeats of the individual errors from that damaging result.
"Sometimes you play well and lose - other times you don't play so well and win. Last season we played well against Stoke but made two mistakes that cost us the game," he added.
"We might be getting results but we have to go there and play our game. We know their qualities and will have to adapt to it.”
Manchester United, meanwhile, will move within almost striking distance of Chelsea if they too can notch victory once again, and they will be confident of doing so with Aston Villa their opponents for the weekend.