John Terry has warned Manchester United that Chelsea are already bent on regaining the Barclays Premier League title after all but surrendering it this season.
The champions' limp 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford on Sunday saw United move six points clear with just two matches remaining and captain Terry immediately vowed to do everything possible to wrest back the championship next year.
The 30-year-old revealed he had made a point of congratulating Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson, even though it "hurt" to do so. He told Chelsea TV: "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 billionaire 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.
Poor run to blame
"But we put a good run together and gave ourselves an opportunity coming into 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 way 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 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."