LONDON (AP) — Samuel Eto'o seized on slack defending to score his first Chelsea hat trick in a 3-1 victory over Manchester United on Sunday that provided further evidence of the Premier League champions' struggles under David Moyes.
It was United's seventh league loss, leaving them not only 14 points behind leader Arsenal but six points from the fourth Champions League spot.
"We won't throw the towel in until we can't get there," Moyes said. "The job is to try and finish first. I will keep trying to do that.
"Before today we'd lost one in six in the league, and I didn't think there was a big difference between the teams today, not at all. The difference was our defending to set-pieces. Nothing else."
For Jose Mourinho, it was his 100th Premier League win and it kept Chelsea within two points of the summit.
Chelsea took control of the game against the run of play at Stamford Bridge after a shot from Eto'o deflected off Michael Carrick into the net in the 17th minute.
After Danny Welbeck squandered a chance to equalize, Eto'o was left unmarked to tap in Chelsea's second on the stroke of halftime.
The Cameroon striker scrambled in his third in the 49th after goalkeeper David de Gea parried Gary Cahill's free header.
"I'm very happy," Eto'o, who joined from Anzhi Makhachkala in the summer transfer window, said in French. "My career wouldn't have been as beautiful if I hadn't gone to Chelsea."
Although Javier Hernandez pulled one back from close range in the 78th to revitalize United, it came too late to prevent United slumping to its fourth loss in five games in all competitions at the start of 2014.
To add to United's troubles, Moyes faces three matches without Nemanja Vidic after his captain was sent off in stoppage time for lunging at Eden Hazard in an undisciplined end.
In the uneasy transition since Moyes succeeded Alex Ferguson after the team won its 20th English title in May, even staying in the top-four elite could be beyond United, which is already out of the FA Cup.
The second-tier League Cup has taken on greater importance for United, with a 2-1 deficit to overturn against Sunderland in the second leg of their semifinal on Wednesday.
United's start in west London had belied its lowly league position — by their standards — in seventh.
Shaper and more determined, United pressed with conviction. And Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech was called on after two minutes to deny Ashley Young after a smart one-two by the winger with Danny Welbeck.