Vincenzo Montella maintains that AC Milan can compete with Serie A's top clubs, pointing out that there is no shame in losing to potential title contenders.
Milan have fallen spectacularly short of the pre-season hype that followed their transfer business, having lost to Lazio, Sampdoria, Roma, Inter and Juventus - five of the top six - this term.
Montella's future has consistently been questioned, with Antonio Conte and Carlo Ancelotti reported as potential successors, along with Primavera coach Gennaro Gattuso.
But when Montella needed a result against Sassuolo on Sunday, Milan delivered, netting through Alessio Romagnoli and Suso to secure a win that their coach drew the positives from.
"I would have been more worried if we had struggled for points against the smaller teams and done well against the big clubs," he told Mediaset Premium.
"It means they have something more than us right now, although I didn't see a big gap. We're not distant in terms of performance, but the defeats prove we still have work to do.
"I saw plenty of positives [at Sassuolo]. We were organised, allowed very little at the back and created many chances, with 10 shots on target. I am happy."
And Montella insists there are no hard feelings towards Gattuso, while he has found the situation to be a learning experience.
"Gattuso is a friend and he got dragged into this situation, too, against his will," he added. "But the media speculation is all part of the job.
"I said I was watching my own funeral [amid reports of the sack] and I think everyone dreams of being able to do that. It was useful as I was able to realise certain things."
Suso added his relief after collecting three points, acknowledging that the Milan players knew the pressure they and Montella had been under.
"I think it was a very important game for our situation," he said. "We played well, earned three points and now, during the break for international duty, we'll all be a bit more relaxed.
"It was a delicate moment for the coach and for us, because we were working hard and the performances weren't what we wanted."