By Chelsea correspondent Tony Hughes
One of Chelsea’s longest-serving players has admitted the atmosphere in the dressing room has improved since Jose Mourinho was sacked.
John Obi Mikel claimed there is a noticeable difference at Stamford Bridge just three games after Mourinho was given his marching orders.
Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink claimed after the team’s goal-less draw against Manchester United on Monday night that he had already lifted spirits in his short reign.
This view was echoed by midfielder Mikel, who believes the departure of the Portuguese has resulted in an end to what technical director Michael Emenalo described as a “palpable discord” between the former manager and his players.
“We’ve moved on from that and the atmosphere has improved since the change of manager,” Mikel said. “It’s fine now, we’ve just not been getting results.
“Jose is a fantastic manager and will always be a fantastic guy. But sometimes football is a cruel game and you have to move on.”
Asked about whether it was the right decision to sack the most successful manager in Chelsea’s history, Mikel replied: “Is it the right decision? Who knows? We’ll only see in the future.”
Chelsea have climbed one place to 14th in the league after three unbeaten matches but they remain 15 points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham.
Nigeria international Mikel is refusing to rule out the possibility of an against-the-odds push for a Champions League place.
“Top four? I don’t think it’s gone,” added the 28-year-old, who made his 350th appearance for the Blues in the 2-2 draw against Watford on Boxing Day.
“We’ve got lots of games to catch up and if we keep going in this direction and keeping clean sheets, we will definitely score goals. We’ve had three games now without losing so are making the right steps.”