Jose Mourinho believes Manchester United have wasted a golden opportunity to open an almost unassailable lead over Chelsea in the race for the Barclays Premiership title.
The Chelsea boss insists the six-point advantage held by Sir Alex Ferguson's side after the completion of the festive programme is 'nothing' as he prepares to welcome back John Terry, Arjen Robben and Peter Cech from injury.
Skipper Terry has been pencilled in for the next league game with Wigan at Stamford Bridge on January 13, with Robben and Cech set to be available for the trip to Liverpool the following week.
Chelsea could have made further inroads into United's lead but were held to a goalless draw at battling Aston Villa last night.
Mourinho said: 'Considering the problems Chelsea have had, Manchester United should be 10, 12, 14 points clear of us. I am happy to be six points behind. Six points is nothing.
'In previous seasons, we have gone 11, 12 points clear and killed things off by Christmas. In my opinion, Manchester United did not take advantage of our bad moments. They could have done better.
'They didn't take their opportunity on Monday when they drew at Newcastle. Manchester United have dropped five points at West Ham and Newcastle recently and the gap could have been bigger.
'Now we look forward to the second half of the season when we should have some people back pretty quickly.
'John Terry should be available for the next Premiership game with Wigan and Petr Cech and Arjen Robben for the game after that (at Liverpool).'
It was not all good news for Mourinho, with defender Khalid Boulahrouz suffering suspected medial ligament damage at Villa Park which the Blues boss reckons will sideline him 'for four to six weeks'.
And centre-back Ricardo Carvalho is now suspended from the Carling Cup semi-final first leg with Wycombe after incurring his fifth booking of the campaign.
But Mourinho is adamant he will not pay over the odds for players in the January transfer window as he continues to be linked with a move for Manchester City defender Micah Richards.
The Chelsea chief said: 'I want to go into the market but I have told my top people that it is time for other clubs to look at us as a normal club.
'People want my players on loan or at sale prices. When I go for a player it is like being told an Aston Martin worth £250,000 will cost me £1million. Then I tell them `goodbye'.
'I am not speaking about Micah Richards. I am speaking generally. We are waiting and watching to see the reactions of other people and we are not crazy.'
Villa boss Martin O'Neill was relieved to halt a run of four successive defeats after a battling performance from his side.
He said: 'I thought we played with a ferocious amount of determination, which we had to against a side like Chelsea.
'We had to try to match them as much as we possibly could and I had nothing but praise for the players. They worked tirelessly and stuck at it right to the end.
'We are pleased we haven't got beaten and have stopped the rot of four successive defeats although we have played better and lost games.'
'Didier Drogba is the best centre-forward in Europe at the moment and our two centre-halves had to be watchful for the whole game.'