Richard Buxton: Player power personified in Chelsea's win
Blues come alive after Mourinho's sacking - a sign of player power at play
(Branislav Ivanovic 5, Pedro Rodriguez 13, Oscar 50-pen)
(Fabio Borini 52)
Player power is very much alive and kicking at Chelsea.
Those who were once incapable of excelling under Jose Mourinho have since become transformed in his absence.
What a difference events of the past few days have made.
The Special One's demise appears to have galvanised the Blues with remarkable effect, on the pitch at least.
Chelsea's healing process threatens to take longer than most, including his interim successor Guus Hiddink, would have realistically anticipated.
Mourinho may be out of sight but remains far from out of mind.
His final watchword of "betrayal" formed the basis of fierce accusations, in both script and song, which were levelled firmly at the dressing room of the EPL's dethroned champions.
Mutiny reigned to the bitter end; all three of their goals against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge last night were greeted with chants in support of the newly-deposed Mourinho.
Branislav Ivanovic, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas' names were all booed vociferously in support of their former manager.
Both Costa and Fabregas suffered further indignity as their respective substitutions were jeered.
Had Eden Hazard been available for inclusion, a fourth chorus of condemnation would invariably have been added.
The narrative for villainy in Stamford Bridge's latest pantomime, it seems, had long been cast.
It was an otherwise small price to pay as Sunderland were comfortably put to the sword last night.
Chelsea finally appeared to be again playing with a hallmark of EPL champions as well as winning like one.
Ivanovic revelled in life beyond Mourinho's clutches with an opening goal that was as clinical as it was simplistic.
Pedro Rodriguez, too, flourished in the spotlight with a prodded finish that left the hosts cruising after barely 15 minutes of the first half.
Yet it was Costa, devoid of a goal once more but not of menace and promise, who delivered the most compelling defence of Roman Abramovich's agonised decision to relieve Chelsea's most successful manager of his duties.
Predictably, there were still signs of the old failings in the Spain international's play, notably with a valiant attempt to win a penalty. But the temperamental striker was more energised and threatening than in any other EPL game this season.
Only Costel Pantilimon's reflexes prevented him from capitalising on Sunderland's poor defending and adding an overdue goal to his faltering tally in a season where confrontation has been directed inwardly rather than at those he once terrorised.
Chelsea were never "too good to go down"; something to which plenty of English football's former heavyweights, now languishing in its lower divisions, would attest.
But though Mourinho may not have taken them to such depths of despair, hovering above the relegation zone was too close a call for Roman Abramovich. He simply had to act. The immediate by-product has provided vindication on multiple fronts.
Now up to 15th in the table, they will not be heralding a remarkable retention of their crown in May - that fell by the wayside a long time ago.
Nor are they likely to lift the Champions League, even if Paris Saint-Germain can be overcome in February's Round-of-16 tie, but Hiddink has both a platform and the players capable of elevating Chelsea to something of a rightful status in football's hierarchy.
Life after Mourinho may not be as dark as his acolytes in the Shed End would have you believe.
- Everton 2 Leicester 3
- Man United 1 Norwich 2
- Southampton 0 Tottenham 2
- Stoke 1 Crystal Palace 2
- West Brom 1 Bournemouth 2
- Watford v Liverpool
- Swansea v West Ham
- Arsenal v Man City
BY THE NUMBERS
84.6 Guus Hiddink's record of 84.6 per cent is the best win ratio of all managers who have taken charge of more than four English Premier League games.
'We can turn season around'
NEW MAN: Guus Hiddink (left) watching the Chelsea-Sunderland match with owner Roman Abramovich (above).
Chelsea have appointed Guus Hiddink as their interim manager until the end of the season.
The Dutchman, who had a previous spell in charge at Stamford Bridge in 2009, succeeds Jose Mourinho, who on Thursday paid the price for the club's disastrous start to the season.
Hiddink, 69, whose last post was as Holland coach, said on the club's official website: "I am excited to return to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are one of the biggest clubs in the world, but are not where they should be at the moment. However, I am sure we can all turn this season around."
He added: 'I am looking forward to working with the players and staff at this great club and especially renewing my wonderful relationship with the Chelsea fans."
Hiddink was at Stamford Bridge for last night's match with Sunderland but Mourinho's No. 2, Steve Holland, will take control of the team alongside Eddie Newton, who is now assistant first-team coach.
Hiddink previously took temporary charge of Chelsea in February 2009 and guided the Blues to FA Cup success at Wembley.
Chelsea's announcement came hot on the heels of Mourinho revealing he is already looking for a route back into management.
Mourinho was axed after Chelsea followed up their title win last term with nine defeats from their opening 16 games.
But the Portuguese, who released a statement through the agency which represents him, is ready for a new challenge.
"He will not be taking a sabbatical, he isn't tired, he doesn't need it, he is very positive, and is already looking forward," CAA said in a statement.
"Because of his love of football, you will see Jose at football grounds working and supporting friends. He will not be attending any high-profile games because he wants to discourage any speculation about his future.
"During his career, Jose has sometimes chosen to leave a club, but only at Chelsea have the club decided that he should leave.
"Each time represents for him the end of a cycle, and the opportunity to start a new one.
"Jose hopes that his future after Chelsea this time will be as successful as when he left the club in 2007."
Blues chairman Bruce Buck used his programme notes to shed some light on the events of the past few days after owner Roman Abramovich's patience finally ran out.
He wrote: "On Thursday, the difficult decision was made for Jose Mourinho to leave the club. I can assure you it was not a decision we took lightly. Nor was it a spur-of-the-moment decision; Mr Abramovich and the board anguished over it for some time. The decision was made for no reason other than to do what we believe is in the best interests of this club.
"We will not forget what Jose achieved here during his two spells as manager. But the start of this season has come as a major disappointment to the owner, the board and Chelsea fans everywhere and I think it is fair to say nobody expected us to be in the position we are in the Premier League just before Christmas."
Captain John Terry, meanwhile, attempted to shoot down rumours that Mourinho was axed due to the influence of the players at the club.
In his captain's notes, the defender wrote: "We are aware there have been rumours of player power at the club but I want to make it clear that is not the case.
"We leave all decisions to Mr Abramovich and the board, and know that our job, as players, is to focus on getting results on the pitch.
"We players have to look at our performances and take responsibility for where Chelsea sit in the table right now. The manager going doesn't change that we are responsible, and to be 16th in the table is not acceptable from us."
Mourinho wasted little time in reappearing in a football stadium, attending Brighton's Amex Stadium yesterday for their Championship clash with Middlesbrough.
Championship leaders Middlesbrough ended Brighton's club-record run of 22 matches undefeated since the end of last season with an impressive 3-0 victory. - PA Sport.
Mourinho's exit to hit Blues' coffers
Jose Mourinho's departure will have a financial impact on Chelsea even though it is too early in the season to count the costs of a possible relegation, experts said.
"Of course, it will affect the balance sheet," said Giambattista Rossi, an expert at the Birkbeck Sport Business Centre in London.
Mourinho will reportedly get a pay-out of between 13.7 million ($21m) and 16.5m euros - a sum of little significance to Chelsea's billionaire owner, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.
But Rossi said any new manager will also need cash on the table to change players and the cost of a planned new 60,000-seat stadium on the club's Stamford Bridge site has to be factored in.
"Every time you change a manager in the UK, you need to give him the power to change the squad," Rossi said. "Probably in the next years, financially they will have some concerns." - AFP.