David Moyes was fired as Manchester United manager on Tuesday, paying the price for the club's spectacular and sudden decline in his 10 months in charge since replacing Alex Ferguson.
United announced hours later that Ryan Giggs, a club great who was on Moyes' coaching staff, will take temporary control of the team until a permanent replacement is found.
The 50-year-old Scot was removed from his post by vice chairman Ed Woodward during a meeting at United's training ground in the morning.
United, which is seventh in the English Premier League in a woeful defense of its title, released a two-line statement on its website, saying Moyes has left the club and that it "would like to place on record its thanks for the hard work, honesty and integrity he brought to the role."
Louis van Gaal, who will leave his position as Netherlands coach after the World Cup in Brazil, has been linked strongly with the position. Borussia Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp has also been mentioned but told British newspaper The Guardian on Tuesday that his "commitment to Borussia Dortmund and the people is not breakable."
Giggs is likely to be interim coach until the end of the season, with United having four games still to play. The 40-year-old Welsh winger has spent 23 years at United and won every honor in the game at club level, making him the club's most decorated player. He is still a member of the playing staff.
Moyes' future has been in doubt since Sunday, when United lost 2-0 to Everton in the Premier League to ensure England's biggest club over the last two decades will miss out on Champions League qualification for the first time in 19 years.
A season after winning a record-extending 20th championship by 11 points, United is on course for its lowest league finish since 1990.
Moyes was hand-picked as United manager by Ferguson, who ended his 27-year reign at the end of last season after winning the league for his 38th major trophy. He signed a six-year deal at a club famed for preaching the values of stability.
But the enormity of the job has overwhelmed Moyes and he has been unable to continue the success of Ferguson, with the team's domestic form dismal by its high standards.
United is 23 points behind leader Liverpool, 13 adrift of the Champions League places, and has slumped to a string of humiliating losses including to fierce rivals Liverpool and Manchester City at home.
United has been defeated a record 11 times in the league and 10 times in 22 matches in all competitions in 2014.
"There is no disguising that the football this season has been poor, the results have been poor," said former United defender Gary Neville, whose younger brother Phil was an assistant manager to Moyes.
"The performances have got worse and worse."
The only highlight in Moyes' tenure was guiding United to the Champions League quarterfinals, where it lost to Bayern Munich, in his first full season of European football.
The deposed champions appear ready to spend considerable sums over the summer to strengthen an aging squad bequeathed to Moyes by Ferguson. But United's American owners, the Glazer family, were not willing to trust Moyes to oversee such heavy spending having already paid around 65 million pounds ($110 million) to sign Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata over the past year.
Such is United's decline, however, that the world's top players are unlikely to want to move to Old Trafford without the prize of Champions League football. With four matches left in the league, qualification for the second-tier Europa League is also looking unlikely.
Giggs has long been regarded as a future United manager, having established himself in the pantheon of United greats by winning 13 Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Champions Leagues, one UEFA Super Cup, an Intercontinental Cup and a Club World Cup as a player.
He is still in the squad, but has had a bit-part role on the pitch, as he turns his focus on life after his playing career and earning his coaching licences.
United denied reports last month that Van Gaal met with a member of the Glazer family, but he will be free in the summer and has the experience of coaching at big clubs that Moyes lacked, having been in charge of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax in a 23-year managerial career.