Manchester United's succession planning for life after Sir Alex Ferguson was left in tatters as manager David Moyes was sacked after 10 troubled months that brought failure and frustration to a football club grown used to seamless success.
The 50-year-old's spell in charge will be remembered for dire performances, humiliating defeats and a failure to qualify for the all-important Champions League for the first time since 1996.
Moyes, appointed with a six-year contract last July after 11 years at Everton, did not even get to complete his first season as the club's owners ran out of patience.
Veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs, was appointed to take interim charge of the team for the final four games of the season, while speculation immediately turned to who might take over at Old Trafford, with Dutchman Louis van Gaal installed as the bookmakers' favourite.
Other leading coaches distanced themselves from the role, with Juergen Klopp saying he was happy to stay with Borussia Dortmund and Pep Guardiola also indicating he had no desire to walk away from a Bayern Munich side he has forged into probably the best in the world.
The sacking of Moyes, less than a year into a contract of a reported $8 million per year, is an indication of the profit-focused approach of the Glazer family.
While able to accept the $50 million shortfall caused by missing the Champions League - partly due to a huge new shirt sponsorship deal with General Motors - the prospect of giving Moyes a close-season transfer money pot in a market where the best players might not want to come, proved an unpalatable one.
United's shares, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange, were up just over six percent at $18.80 at 1924 GMT, signalling investor relief at the decision to sack Moyes.