Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart believes his team are not just one-season wonders and insists he and his team-mates will rebound from this campaign if they lose their Premier League crown.
Ahead of Monday's Manchester derby, City trail leaders Manchester United by 15 points, knowing even a win at Old Trafford may not be enough to salvage a campaign that has seen them fall short of the United “machine”.
And Hart feels that his side are still well positioned to rebound from the disappointment of this year, insisting that it has not been a backwards step.
Speaking at an EA Sports Fifa 13 Ultimate Team event, Hart said: "We are still competing in every game, we have still kept our respect and dignity, and will come again. We are not a flash in the pan.
“[If United win the league] We’ll deal with that. Hopefully it won’t happen, but it looks like it will. It’s something to deal with, but we will just have to keep blasting until the end of the year, keep trying to win and get as many points as we can to cement second.
"I’m not really interested in giving them [United] credit, it’s about what we do. But if they win the league, you have to take your hat off to them.
"We know how good we are, and for someone to beat us it is a big thing. We have not fallen away. People will say it’s a massive backwards step not winning it, but it’s not that."
The Premier League champions have often been criticised for not reaching the levels that saw them trump United to the title on the final day, with manager Roberto Mancini laying the blame at the feet of his players.
For Hart, it is a combination of the quality of Sir Alex Ferguson's side and less consistent displays from City's squad.
"We have not quite finished teams off, and little things have not gone our way — and I don’t mean that in terms of luck, but in the way we have played,” the England goalkeeper added. “United have been a machine who have kept killing, and we haven’t.
"I wouldn’t pick anyone ahead of my team-mates anywhere around the world. I feel we have enough to win any game, and that’s what we should be doing. In various games we haven’t done it. Every team will say you need at least eight performing, and sometimes we haven’t had that.
"Other times we have had all 11 performing in one game and won easily, rather than balancing it out, which was maybe the case last season. That’s not a criticism. It’s tough to be at your best all season, and you need to be there for each other. I’d like to think it will bring us closer. We are still in the FA Cup and have that place to cement, so there is plenty to play for, but we would prefer snapping at their heels.
"They [United] were always going to come back strongly, and we intended to do the same. It’s just how the season panned out, but we have other things we have to keep an eye on."