A rampant Chelsea demonstrated their title credentials Sunday as Andre Villas-Boas' side thumped Bolton Wanderers 5-1.
Frank Lampard's hat-trick inspired the Blues in a comprehensive victory over bottom-of-the-table Bolton as they sent a timely reminder to their Manchester rivals that they should not be discounted from the title race.
Chelsea were 4-0 up inside the opening half hour as midfielder Lampard responded to the critics who had questioned this recent form.
The England international has struggled to earn a regular starting berth for club and country this season but he set up Daniel Sturridge for Chelsea's second-minute opener before hitting three himself.
"There's only one way [to answer critics] and I've been around a long time so it's never always plain sailing and you just have to stay strong and let your football do the talking," Lampard told Sky Sports.
"If you do that, you keep workign hard, things come to you and today things came to me."
Lampard, who also scored in Wednesday's 1-1 draw at Valencia in the Champions League, will hope his recent form can earn a place in England's first XI for their Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro on Friday.
"It's good for him because he had a good solid performance alongside the rest of the team," Villas-Boas told a press conference. "He arrived with the perfect timing in the box.
"His talent was never in question ... it's not a question of age, it's a question of competence and this squad is full of competence and the talent of the players is never in question.
"I think we have enough talent to continue to challenge for the Premier League."