Manchester United manager David Moyes was sacked today, only 316 days after formally succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson.
Moyes' dismissal, which was sanctioned by the Glazer family in February after the Champions League round of 16 away defeat at Olympiakos revealed a catastrophic level of decline, was dismissed at a meeting with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward at the club's Carrington training ground shortly after 8am.
Player-coach Ryan Giggs will take charge until a permanent manager is appointed, the club have confirmed, beginning with United's next game at home against Norwich on Saturday. He is to run the side with his former teammate Nicky Butt, who managed United's Europa Youth League side before a group stage elimination last autumn. Moyes' coaches Steve Round and Jimmy Lumsden have also left their posts. Borussia Dortmund's Jurgen Klopp and the Dutch national coach Luis van Gaal are leading contenders to replace Moyes.
Under the terms of his six-year contract, failure to qualify for the 2014/15 Champions League entitles Moyes to take away on only one year's pay from the five years oustandng on his six-year contract.
In a statement today, United said it "would like to place on record its thanks for the hard work, honesty and integrity he brought to the role". The club currently lie seventh in the table with four games remaining and are guaranteed to record their lowest ever points tally in the Premier League.
Everton's Roberto Martinez has also been linked with the job, although the Toffess are unlikely to let another manager leave Goodison Park for Old Trafford in the space of a year, while former United defender Laurent Blanc - now in charge at Paris St-Germain - is also a leading contender to return to the club at the end of the season.
The Glazer family, who will be in Manchester next week to help oversee a managerial recruitment process, appear to have sanctioned the removal of Moyes as far back as the Champions League defeat at Olympiakos on 25 February. The decision to get rid of the 50-year-old was discussed and possibly ratified at a recent United board meeting but there is a financial motive behind delaying removing him until now.
The mathematical impossibility of United finishing in the top four this season, following their 11th Premier League defeat of the season at Goodison Park on Sunday, means that United need only give Moyes a one-year pay-off under the terms of his five-year deal, rather than honour the full four years left on that contract.
Initially, it had been thought that the Scot's departure might be a graceful one after United's Premier League season ends at Southampton on 11 May. But chief executive Woodward has been urgently seeking to tie up transfer business in Germany and Spain before the World Cup starts, in 52 days' time. The prospect of securing players such as Southampton's Luke Shaw and Bayern Munich's Toni Kroos would be even more challenging if United were under the leadership of a lame-duck manager, as well as unable to offering such recruits Champions League football next season.