David Moyes is facing the sack as Manchester United manager with the club’s owners, the Glazer family, preparing to call time on the Scot’s disastrous tenure at Old Trafford.
Just 11 months after being handed a six-year contract as Sir Alex Ferguson’s hand-picked successor at United, Moyes is understood to have lost the backing of the Glazers and senior executives at the club, with Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Everton proving the final straw.
The 50-year-old’s reign could end before Saturday’s Old Trafford encounter with Norwich City if he chooses to seek assurances over his future which executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is unlikely to be able to offer.
The backroom staff appointed by Moyes in place of Ferguson’s coaches Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen are also likely to be moved on, with Steve Round, Jimmy Lumsden and Phil Neville having struggled to earn the respect and backing of the players.
The future of Chris Woods, who has overseen a marked improvement in the form of David de Gea as goalkeeping coach, is uncertain.
United have yet to actively pursue a replacement for Moyes, with the Glazers remaining supportive of the former Everton manager until the weekend.
But with Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp earning admirers at Old Trafford after building a young, vibrant and successful team in Germany, the 46-year-old is expected to be favoured ahead of the likes of Louis van Gaal, Diego Simeone and Ryan Giggs, whose lack of experience is likely to count against his prospects of securing the manager’s job.
The Glazers are known to be hugely disappointed by the team’s performances this season and regard the increasing likelihood of a seventh place finish as substantially below expectations, despite the acceptance that Ferguson’s departure would lead to turbulence this campaign.
With United needing to close a six-point gap on sixth-placed Tottenham in order to salvage Europa League qualification, the club is facing the ignominious prospect of failing to qualify for European football for the first time since the 1981-82 season.
It has also been noted by senior figures that United are set to become the worst defending champions in Premier League history, equalling the seventh place finish of Ray Harford’s Blackburn Rovers in 1996.
Concern has grown among the United hierarchy over the direction the team has taken under Moyes and the disaffection of several senior players has also been transmitted to influential power brokers at the club.
And with the Glazers and Woodward handing Moyes several opportunities to arrest the team’s slump this season, including persevering with him after the 3-0 defeat at home to Liverpool last month when his position was under greatest threat, there is now a realisation that the manager has been a central factor in the downturn this season and that he is unlikely to be able to reverse the situation.
Ferguson’s support of Moyes is also understood to have been eroded by the poor performances and results, as well as the breakdown of the manager’s relationship with Giggs and the Welshman being marginalised, on and off the pitch, by Moyes.
With United overlooking the claims of Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti to appoint Moyes on Ferguson’s recommendation last summer, the former Preston manager has struggled from the outset to impose himself on the job at Old Trafford.
Repeated complaints about the difficulty of United’s start to the season, which saw the team face Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in the first month of the campaign, hinted at Moyes’s discomfort in the role.
And although Moyes successfully persuaded Wayne Rooney to commit his future to the club after attempting to leave last summer, persistent rumours of discontent in the dressing-room failed to subside, with Robin van Persie, Giggs, Nemanja Vidic and Danny Welbeck all disenchanted with the new regime.
Moyes alarmed his bosses by failing to be decisive during the summer transfer window, which resulted in a disastrous £27.5m purchase of Marouane Fellaini from Everton minutes before the deadline and, having failed to add sufficient reinforcements, he oversaw a poor start to the season from which the team has been unable to recover.
The Glazers remained supportive, however, and sanctioned the £37.5m club record signing of Juan Mata from Chelsea in January in an effort to boost the team’s prospects of a late-season surge into the Champions League qualification positions.
But results have continued to disappoint, with United losing 10 of their 22 games so far in 2014 and Moyes’s team breaking new ground in negative statistics.
Sunday’s defeat at Everton was their 11th league reverse this season – a club record in the Premier League – and United are on course to record their lowest finish since the 1990 campaign, when Ferguson’s team ended the season in 13th position.
And while supporters have so far failed to vent their frustrations, with the exception of a protest plane being flown over Old Trafford prior to the Aston Villa game last month, the club are aware of growing anger among supporters.
If Moyes is dismissed before the final game of the season at Southampton on May 11, Giggs would be expected to take charge of the team before a more permanent replacement is appointed.