Liverpool owners Fenway Sports group sacked Kenny Dalglish after losing faith in his ability to deliver the progress they were expecting under him.
Just a month ago chairman Tom Werner, after relieving director of football Damien Comolli of his duties, had insisted the 61-year-old Scot had their full backing.
However, with the Reds finishing eighth, their lowest league position for 18 years, FSG took the bold and unenviable decision – “not reached lightly or hastily” according to a statement – to dismiss Dalglish in the quest to regain Liverpool’s Champions League status.
At the start of the season principal owner John Henry had said a top-four place was the minimum requirement.
Just 24 hours after Dalglish had returned from a face-to-face meeting with Henry and Werner in the United States the Americans brought his 16-month second spell in charge to an end.
Werner admitted Dalglish had done an important job in stabilising the club after they had sacked Roy Hodgson following a desperate six-month reign but they felt it was time to move on.
“Kenny came into the club as manager at our request at a time when Liverpool Football Club really needed him,” said the Liverpool chairman.
“He did more than anyone else to stabilise Liverpool over the past year and a half and to get us once again looking forward. We owe him a great debt of gratitude.
“However, results in the Premier League have been disappointing and we believe to build on the progress that has already been made, we need to make a change.
“We are committed to delivering success for our supporters and our ambition remains resolute to return this great club to the elite of England and Europe, where it belongs.”
Liverpool finished 17 points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham and they were actually closer to relegated Bolton in 18th.
Even winning the Carling Cup, their first trophy for six years, and reaching the FA Cup final could not save Dalglish.
His departure leaves the club without a manager, director of football (FSG’s preferred operating model), head of sports science or a head of communications – all of whom have been dispensed with in the last month.
In addition, they have never had a chief executive in place nor progressed the thorny issue of plans for a new or redeveloped stadium and it seems the owners have plenty of work to do this summer.
With the transfer window opening in two weeks, further complicated by the European Championships, their priority has to be to quickly find replacements for Dalglish and Comolli so the process of squad evaluation and strengthening can begin.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has been linked with the post while former manager Rafael Benitez, who famously won the Champions League in 2005, reached the final in 2007 and consistently delivered top-four places, is still out of work and living on the Wirral.
In 2009 Benitez came within four points of becoming the first Liverpool manager since Dalglish in 1990 to win the title but he remains a divisive figure among fans and returning to another former manager after dispensing with one might smack of desperation on FSG’s part.
Dalglish’s view that winning one trophy and reaching the final of another was enough of an achievement to promote optimism for the future was not shared by the owners.
“Of course I am disappointed with results in the league but I would not have swapped the Carling Cup win for anything as I know how much it meant to our fans and the club to be back winning trophies,” said Dalglish.
“Whilst I am obviously disappointed to be leaving the football club, I can say that the matter has been handled by the owners and all concerned in an honourable, respectful and dignified way and reflects on the quality of the people involved and their continued desire to move the football club forward in the same way as when they arrived here.”