Chelsea put the blame on Jose, citing 'palpable discord' with players
Chelsea laid the blame for Jose Mourinho's Stamford Bridge exit squarely at the door of the departing manager as they honed in on an interim successor.
Board member Michael Emenalo cited "palpable discord" between Mourinho and Chelsea's players for the 52-year-old's departure "by mutual consent".
Guus Hiddink appeared to be the front-runner to take the helm and reprise the caretaker manager role he filled after Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked in 2009.
His former employers, Football Federation Australia, even announced Hiddink as Chelsea's new boss in the early hours of Friday. Former Blues striker Mateja Kezman also said the Dutchman told him he had been offered the job.
Just seven months after landing the Premier League title, Mourinho left Chelsea's Cobham training ground for the final time on Thursday afternoon, hiding his face under a hooded top.
According to several reports, he and the Chelsea team had their Christmas lunch before Mourinho was summoned at 2pm to be told by chairman Bruce Buck and director Eugene Tenenbaum that his reign was over.
"Whilst there is huge sentiment for the individual who has done so much for the club, the fact of the matter remains that Chelsea Football Club is in trouble," Emenalo told Chelsea TV.
"There obviously seems to be palpable discord between manager and players, and we feel it was time to act.
"The owner is forced to make what was a very tough decision for the good of the club.
"Anyone who loves the club, who has any kind of affiliation to the club, can understand that this club is in trouble, and something needed to be done."
Mourinho's departure follows nine defeats in 16 league games this term, results that have caused a shocking descent into the relegation mire.
The messy departure of Dr Eva Carneiro, now suing the club, after being branded "naive" by Mourinho in August, has been viewed externally as causing extra unrest.
Former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas was forced to fend off rumours he had led dressing room revolts against Mourinho earlier in the season.
Now Emenalo has further backed Chelsea's players, insisting none of the Stamford Bridge squad had any part to play in Mourinho's exit.
Chelsea are thought to favour Italy manager Antonio Conte as their top choice for a long-term appointment, but his contract runs until after Euro 2016.
First-team coach Steve Holland could take charge of Saturday's home Premier League clash with Sunderland.
Chelsea announced Mourinho's departure in a statement on Thursday afternoon.
"All at Chelsea thank Jose for his immense contribution since he returned as manager in the summer of 2013," read Chelsea's statement.
"His three league titles, FA Cup, Community Shield and three League Cup wins over two spells make him the most successful manager in our 110-year history.
"But both Jose and the board agreed results have not been good enough this season and believe it is in the best interests of both parties to go our separate ways.
"The club wishes to make clear Jose leaves us on good terms and will always remain a much-loved, respected and significant figure at Chelsea."