LONDON -- John Obi Mikel has said almost all of Chelsea's players want interim manager Guus Hiddink to remain in charge beyond this season because of the way the Dutchman has transformed the fortunes and mood of the club.
Hiddink returned to Stamford Bridge in December after Jose Mourinho was sacked by owner Roman Abramovich for the second time, having presided over a disastrous Premier League title defence and what technical director Michael Emenalo described as "palpable discord" between the management and players.
Chelsea have lost just one of 14 matches in all competitions since Mourinho's departure and booked a place in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup with a 5-1 rout of a youthful Manchester City team at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Mikel has regained a prominent first-team role under Hiddink and, speaking after Sunday's win, the midfielder called on Abramovich to look past reported leading candidates Antonio Conte, Diego Simeone and Massimiliano Allegri in favour of giving the experienced Dutchman the job on a permanent basis.
"Obviously I want him to stay, but it's the choice of the owner, the club and the board," Mikel said. "They will have to decide but if you ask the players, I think 98, 99 percent of them want him to stay. We're very happy, performing well and let's hope it continues.
"You can see it with Diego [Costa]. It takes a lot to get Diego in a good mood!
"It depends on the board. It depends on Guus too, whether he wants to continue. He's said a few times he's here until the end of the season but you never know. He might change his mind and if the club wants to appoint him, then fair enough. His record speaks very highly of him."
Mikel credits Hiddink with having a calming influence on a Chelsea squad that appeared disgruntled and divided in the final months of Mourinho's tenure, revealing that the Dutchman gives his players both freedom and responsibility.
"From day one since Guus came in, the atmosphere changed," he added. "Players feel more relaxed, people know what their job is and get on with their jobs in a more relaxed way. He's given responsibility to people and expects them to thrive on that and make sure they do it in a way that they feel comfortable doing. That's what the players are showing now.
"When you come into training he doesn't get into people's business. Players feel very comfortable and know exactly what to do. He doesn't need to speak -- we all know what he wants, and it's the same when we go onto the pitch for a game.
"When he gets upset he tries to clear the air straight away. He speaks to whoever is involved and lets them know that what they've done is wrong. This football club is bigger than anyone and he puts the record straight right away. He doesn't hold grudges, it's squashed then and there."
Chelsea's reward for comprehensively beating City is a tricky FA Cup quarterfinal tie against Everton at Goodison Park next month, but Mikel is confident that the Blues can avenge the 3-1 defeat suffered in the corresponding Premier League fixture back in September.
"It's always tough playing Everton, especially there," Mikel said. "When we go on the pitch both teams want to win and sometimes it's very physical and it's always a very difficult game.
"Right now we're playing well and we believe we can beat anyone in the league. If we carry on playing this way and concentrate on doing our defensive work, you can see the guys are enjoying their football."