Chelsea captain John Terry has said Jose Mourinho lost his job because it was not possible to "get rid of a lot of players" but said he is still not ruling out a top-four finish this season.
Mourinho was dismissed as Chelsea boss last week after a 2-1 defeat to Leicester left the defending champions one point above the relegation zone, but they returned to winning ways on Saturday with a 3-1 home win over Sunderland.
The victory was overshadowed by clear discontentment among the crowd, with large sections making clear their anger at several of the players for failing to perform during Mourinho's final months in charge.
"If it was the case where you could get rid of a lot of players I'm sure clubs would do that, but unfortunately it does fall on the manager's head," Terry said in The Times. "There's nothing we can do about that. For Chelsea being the big club we are it is unacceptable for us to be in this position. The manager has lost his job because of that."
He added: "We spoke on Friday about staying together. We need to stick together over the next five or six months and get ourselves back up the league table.
"Unfortunately the manager's head is on the block, he loses his job and collectively we have to take responsibility for that, which we have done."
Chelsea's technical director Michael Emenalo confirmed that there was "palpable discord" between the manager and sections of the squad and the Stamford Bridge crowd focused the bulk of their anger on Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa on Saturday, booing when their names were read out prior to the game and registering their disappointment again when the pair were substituted. Eden Hazard, who was not in the squad due to injury, also faced criticism on fan banners.
Mourinho had accused the players of betraying his work after the Leicester defeat and the Daily Mirror has reported that he had made the same criticism twice in private even before that loss at the King Power Stadium.
However, the Daily Telegraph said Mourinho viewed Fabregas as one of his "strongest allies" in the Chelsea dressing room and that the pair spoke twice in the hours before and after the Portuguese's sacking.
The former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder, who thanked the manager on his Twitter account after the sacking, was accused of leading a mini-revolt against Mourinho earlier in the season by The Secret Footballer but the website later issued a statement accepting that the story was incorrect.
Meanwhile, The Times, which also reported that Fabregas had a close relationship with Mourinho, said that Costa had undertaken double training sessions in the three weeks prior to the manager's exit in a bid to improve his fitness after his disappointing start to the season.
Sources have told ESPN FC that both Fabregas and Costa wanted Mourinho to stay and fully backed their manager.
Terry is hopeful that the whole Chelsea team can rediscover their form and is not ruling out finishing in the Champions League places this season.
"A lot of us have spoken publicly to say we haven't been performing well enough, but this is a step in the right direction to where we want to be, which is climbing the league table," he said.
"You have to move on because games come around fast. A game came two days after the manager had gone so there's no point in us sulking because we could have been 17th or 18th in the league table today. We could be further down the table and it can't be like that. We had to stand up and be counted and we did that today."
On a potential top-four finish, he said: "From that first-half performance [against Sunderland], who knows?
"It is going to be difficult to win every game, we know that, but step-by-step, there's a lot of games over Christmas, if we can go on a good run and climb the table over Christmas, then who knows?"