Pep Guardiola appeared to admit Manchester City were out of the title race after an embarrassing 4-0 drubbing to Everton.
City capitulated alarmingly in the latter stages at Goodison Park on Sunday to crash to their heaviest Premier League defeat since 2008 and their fifth loss of this campaign.
The result left them in fifth, trailing leaders Chelsea by 10 points, and Guardiola admitted a league crown in his first season in English football could be beyond him.
Asked if the gap to the top was now too great, Guardiola said: “By the first one? Yes. Ten points is a lot of points. The second one is three points. We have to see.”
Guardiola, however, felt his side were unfortunate and insisted they would continue to push hard.
He said: “In so many games we create enough chances, but when they arrive they score and the second time they arrive they score.
“That, for the mind of the players, is tough, mentally tough, and that is why we have to keep going, be strong and work harder.”
If City’s Premier League title hopes are wilting, the club still have hope of glory in Europe and Champions League odds with Paddy Power are here.
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss denied he was now facing the toughest challenge of a managerial career that had never before suffered a 4-0 loss in a domestic league match.
He feels his jobs in the past were just as challenging but he managed to find the route to success quicker.
He said: “I would say the exceptional situation was in the past. When you have eight years as a coach and you win seven titles and you’re always winning – that is the exceptional situation.
“I have to look for the best solution to take the players to winning games again.
“I am happy in Manchester but, of course, it is the first time in my life I have conceded a lot of goals. It never happened before and I need to know the reason why.”
City played some good football in the first half but were stung by goals in the 34th and 47th minutes from Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas respectively. Their response after that was underwhelming and Everton wrapped up a fine victory with a superb goal from impressive academy product Tom Davies and debutant Ademola Lookman.
Everton boss Ronald Koeman said: “I think how we played in the second half was really perfect. In my opinion, it is impossible to play at a higher level, in every aspect of football. It was a perfect afternoon.”