STAMFORD BRIDGE, LONDON — The boos rang out loud and clear at Chelsea on Saturday.
Mourinho isn’t returning to Stamford Bridge any time soon. The fans singing his name and turning their backs on those who represent the club in his absence isn’t going to achieve that either.
Make no mistake, despite a comfortable 3-1 win over a woeful Sunderland, Chelsea’s season remains in the mire.
Premier League champions they may be, but Chelsea are still very much in a relegation battle.
Mourinho refused to acknowledge that publicly after his side lost to Leicester City earlier in the week. But just four points clear of the drop zone on Christmas, there’s no mistaking it.
Infighting and taking sides have gotten Chelsea to where they are now. This season has been a complete disaster, and to ensure it doesn’t get any worse will require a collective effort.
That means: fans getting behind their team; players accepting they’ve played poorly and raising their performances; and new interim coach Guus Hiddink being given the same level of support Mourinho deservedly received.
Throughout the ordeal that has been 2015/16, Chelsea fans have been exemplary. Flag-waving they may be at times, but they’ve shown themselves to be anything but plastic.
The fans stood behind the club through its worst spell of league form in a generation. They haven’t turned their backs, instead, raising their voices to drown out the looming sound of oblivion. To ensure it doesn’t strike, they need to continue that way.
Saturday was about reminding Mourinho of the affection he has on the terraces. It was spine-tingling to hear his name echo across west London after each of the three goals Chelsea scored.
Indeed, there was a touching moment midway through the first half when 40,000 Chelsea fans stood in unison to sing his name.
It was cathartic, a moment that had been building since Thursday’s announcement of Mourinho’s exit.
To quote the phrase that has soured Chelsea's season further, the fans ensured Roman Abramovich was fully aware of the "palpable discord" between the club and its supporters in this moment.
It must end there. Whether there was a dressing room mutiny or not, the Chelsea players showed against Sunderland they want to move on.
They had their swagger back. Fabregas had one of his best performances of the season, and Oscar even pulled off a rabona in the first half.
Watching them, it seemed a weight had been lifted. They seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief, and they demonstrated their unity as all 10 outfield players huddled to celebrate every goal scored.
After Pedro made it 2-0, Nemanja Matic even pulled stragglers who had exited back into the team's group hug. It was as though the players needed that bond to remind them of the spirit we saw last season.
The Chelsea players have taken the first step to writing the wrongs on the pitch, and the fans must follow suit.
It’s regrettable this turnaround in attitude didn’t come under Mourinho’s guidance. The manager means so much to Chelsea, that success without him will always be tinged with a hint of there being something missing.
Mourinho has come to represent what this club is all about in the modern era. His bond with the supporters who booed Fabregas and Costa in his name on Saturday has been unlike anything we've seen in English football in recent years.
The final chapter in his Chelsea legacy remains unwritten. He is still to win the Champions League with Chelsea, and that feeling of longing will linger for some time yet.
But it’s over. We will not see again the scenes from West Bromwich Albion last season when Mourinho celebrated league title success with the traveling Chelsea contingent.
Continuing a protest against his dismissal will ensure success of any sort is less likely too.
It’s by coming together that adversity is overcome. United we stand, divided we fall is the much-used proverb.
Chelsea fans must heed that warning.