Alex Ferguson sounded a warning note to Chelsea after they maintained their five-point gap at the top of the Barclays Premiership with a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle.
Manchester United boss Ferguson insists Jose Mourinho’s men are bound to hit a sticky patch at some point in the season which could cost them dear in the title race.
Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben and Mateja Kezman all struck to sink Graeme Souness’ side with another glorious performance at Stamford Bridge.
But Ferguson said: “Chelsea will have a blip – they will lose games, and it is then a case of how their players react.
“We and Arsenal have got that experience. We have seen title challenges be over by March. Chelsea don’t have that experience of winning when it really matters.”
Kezman’s late penalty was his first goal for Chelsea, and he was relieved to finally get off the mark.
“I felt very confident, and that is my character,” said Kezman. “I also got a lot of confidence from my team-mates and my boss.”
Ferguson’s men kept hold of Chelsea’s coat-tails as they cantered to a 3-0 win over lowly Southampton.
Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo hit the net but failed to please defender Gary Neville who insists his side still need to find their ruthless streak despite seven successive wins.
Neville said: “Three-nil is good, but it is only when United start to win by five or six that you start to send messages out.
“Chelsea are nine points in front of us, and Arsenal are four – so we know there can be no more mistakes, because we can’t afford to give them leads like that going into February or March.”
Under-fire Saints boss Steve Wigley faces another grim week, picking up the pieces for his relegation-threatened side.
“Saturday nights and Sundays have not been too great in my house recently - but now my job is to pick the players up to prepare to play Middlesbrough,” said Wigley.
Arsenal recovered from their recent blip and coasted to a 3-0 win over Birmingham, which boss Arsene Wenger believes could be crucial to their title chances.
Thierry Henry’s late double gave the scoreline a flattering look after Robert Pires’ early opener.
While admitting his side are a long way off their peak, Wenger added: “I am convinced that these three points will help us recover well and prepare better.
“It was certainly less stylish than we are used to, but the important thing was to respond and come back with the points.”
Everton kept hold of third place after a five-goal thriller against Bolton at Goodison Park.
Kevin Davies’ double seemed set to send Sam Allardyce’s men home with the points.
But Everton twice drew level – first through Duncan Ferguson then via an own goal by Radhi Jaidi – before tempers frayed and Thomas Gravesen’s controversial twice-taken free-kick grabbed the points.
Bolton boss Allardyce raged: “The disappointment was the referee in major incidents… it looked as though he could not cope with the pressure.
“I have a big problem with referees at the moment. If I had freedom of speech I could tell you how I really felt.”
Liverpool failed to make their early dominance count and instead had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa.
Harry Kewell grabbed his first league goal for 10 months as Rafael Benitez’s man had numerous chances to seal only their second away win this season.
But Villa grabbed a first-half equaliser through Nolberto Solano’s free-kick and held out for a draw.
West Brom remain bottom after spectacularly blowing their chances of taking three points at Portsmouth.
Robert Earnshaw’s fifth goal in five games seemed set to send the Baggies home with a hard-earned win with just five minutes left.
But Arjan de Zeeuw’s diving header equalised, and three minutes later Lomana LuaLua struck the winner with the Albion defence nowhere.
Dejan Stefanovic’s 14th-minute own goal had given the Baggies the lead, but that was cancelled out 20 minutes later when Darren Purse also put through his own net.
There was similar woe for fellow new boys Norwich who crashed to another home defeat against Chris Coleman’s Fulham.
Andy Cole struck the only goal of the game in the seventh minute, and the Cottagers held on to provide a timely boost after last week’s shambolic display at Blackburn.
Meanwhile, Robbie Keane’s goal early in the second half gave Tottenham an important 1-0 win at Blackburn.
In yesterday’s south London derby, Charlton celebrated Dennis Rommedahl’s sensational injury-time strike which gave them victory in a tightly contested clash with Crystal Palace.