Phil Jones has sent a defiant message from Manchester United by stating that the champions are inspired by "everyone hating" them.
Jones, who impressed in a central midfield role and then as a makeshift centre-half during the 1-0 win over Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday, believes that because David Moyes is in his inaugural campaign at the club they have received unfair criticism from non-United fans.
The victory over Arsène Wenger's team was the first for United under Moyes against a major club, after they had lost 1-0 at Liverpool and 4-1 away to Manchester City, while drawing 0-0 with Chelsea at Old Trafford.
A 2-1 home defeat by West Bromwich Albion at the end of September was a further disappointment but United – whose captain, Nemanja Vidic, was released from hospital on Monday after being concussed following a collision with David de Gea during the Arsenal match – have now gone nine games without losing since then, form that suggests they are beginning to mould under Moyes.
"It [the victory over Arsenal] proves when people doubt us we are more than capable of standing up for ourselves and proving to people that is why we were champions last season," Jones said. "We weren't champions for nothing. This is a step in the right direction going into a busy period.
"People want us to fail because we have won the league so many times. United won the league long before I was here. Everyone hates the best clubs, it is as simple as that. We enjoy that. We relish the test we get thrown at us week in, week out."
Regarding the importance of a win that cut United's deficit with Arsenal to five points, Jones said they could have faced a near impossible task to retain the title if they had lost. "It would have been difficult but look at the season before last when we were a long way clear of Manchester City," he said. "They turned it around. Anything is possible in football. You could never write us off. But full credit to the lads. Everyone put in a shift and dug deep. We thoroughly deserved the three points."
Like Jones, the midfielder Tom Cleverley believes United's victory was the best answer to their critics. "We are back in the mix," he said. "We are ahead of City [by a point] and not far behind Chelsea [one]. We have also played some very tough games out of our opening 11. I am sure we can get a run together and get right up to the top.
"Going into the game and seeing the weekend's results, we knew it was an extra important three points. We managed to grind it out in the end with a great defensive performance. We had some more chances to seal it. We didn't want Arsenal to go 11 points ahead of us. It is what everyone predicted at the start of the season. Everyone is improving and it makes for a really competitive season."