PSV Eindhoven managing director Tiny Sanders has admitted the club sacked Fred Rutten despite his popularity with the players.
Rutten was axed as coach this morning and replaced by former player Phillip Cocu and Ernest Faber until the end of the season. Rutten's contract had been due to expire in the summer but was terminated early following three successive heavy defeats which have threatened to end the club's hopes of silverware.
Yesterday's 3-1 defeat at lowly NAC Breda followed a thumping 6-2 home reverse against title rivals FC Twente to leave them four points adrift of Eredivisie leaders AZ Alkmaar.
In between, a 4-2 defeat at Valencia left PSV on the brink of elimination from the UEFA Europa League. That prompted the club's decision and, while some players have since expressed their disappointment at Rutten's departure, Sanders said a change had to be made.
"That Rutten enjoyed the support of the majority of the players did not matter to the board," he said at a press conference this afternoon.
"If players support the coach that does not automatically mean that he should remain. We decided we wanted to change the trainer to give a positive impulse for the short term with the longer-term objectives in mind."
Following Rutten's departure veteran defender Wilfred Bouma told AD: "We all feel guilty, the manager is so popular among the players."
Inexperienced duo Cocu, who steps up from a backroom role, and former youth team coach Faber move up into Rutten's shoes with Sanders admitting he did not expect any "miracles" before the end of the season. Despite that, he said the club retained hope of winning a trophy this season.
"In the remaining games we expect the maximum possible performance, but do not expect miracles," he said. "The return leg in the Europa League against Valencia will be extremely difficult and in the league we are no longer in control. But we have not taken this decision because we have already given up."
Around 200 supporters surrounded the team bus yesterday to voice their frustration at Rutten, who is followed out of the club by his first-team coach Erik ten Hag.