Benitez insists it is far too early to write off his wounded team and is convinced the gap is about to close ahead of tomorrow’s Manchester derby.
“My thoughts are very clear. We have to win against Sunderland. I am not worried about the distance but it would be much better to be closer sooner rather than later.
“All I can do is concentrate on my team and my job. But if we start winning games again, we will have our chances in the title race.
“I’m not thinking about what will happen between United and City. I have no preference in terms of a result there.
“We have to improve the team and be mentally strong enough to come back and compete in the second part of the league season.
“We have to show the character I know we have. If we are stronger, we will be able to win many games in a row.”