LONDON — Guus Hiddink has told Chelsea's underperforming players to look in the mirror and ask if they're up to the task of fixing the team.
After Jose Mourinho was fired last week, the 69-year-old Hiddink was brought back for a second spell as manager until the end of the season.
It followed Chelsea's alarming slump after collecting the English Premier League trophy in May. Chelsea has lost nine out of 17 games in the title defence to sit only three points above the relegation zone.
"It was frightening for everyone in the club ... it's not easy to fix," Hiddink said on Wednesday before his first match in charge against Watford on Saturday.
Hiddink recounted telling the squad: "Look in the mirror for a long time and see what everyone from now on can contribute ... we cannot ignore what has happened in the recent past but I asked them to look in the mirror and see if you can be ultra-critical."
Some players faced abuse from their own fans despite convincingly winning the first match after Mourinho was fired, 3-1 against Sunderland.
"I hope the fans will support the team as they did briefly also when some beautiful actions were executed during the last game," Hiddink said. "The fans have a right to think and express themselves ... but the team has to take the initiative to get the fans. They aren't lost."
Hiddink was last at Chelsea briefly, also in a firefighting role for a few months in 2009 when he won the FA Cup.
"I shouldn't be here halfway through the season because it means that things are not going well," the Dutchman said.
Hiddink also has his own reputation to recover.
He quit as manager of Turkey after failing to qualify the team for the 2012 European Championship, and did not win a trophy with Anzhi Makhachkala during a spell with the Russian club.
He has been out of work since being fired by the Netherlands in June during the latter stages of his national team's unsuccessful attempt to qualify for Euro 2016.
"I could not finish that job and it was disappointing for me," he said.
Rob Harris, The Associated Press