What next for David Moyes?
Twenty Barclays Premier League chairmen all reached for a red pen and drew a line though Davie Moyes' name yesterday: "not wanted here". Well, no, not really, but that's the way it might have felt to Moyes last night, when he could be forgiven for feeling at his lowest ebb, unloved, unwanted and unemployable.
He will bounce back as a man and a manager because as a substantial and impressive football figure he has the quality familiar in all high-end bosses: unbending self-belief.
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Take the Manchester United job and fail, in the way Moyes has, and a whole raft of clubs become permanently out-of-reach. He is untouchable to Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal now. There are two reasons why he is untouchable to Liverpool and the oldest of those, Everton, where he enjoyed his best years, would have a lot of thinking to do before rolling out a welcome mat to the man who left them last May.
Moyes, who turns 51 on Friday, will resurface, and almost certainly before the end of the year. His addiction to coaching and management is too entrenched for him to allow himself any prolonged idleness. Newcastle United and Aston Villa are natural destinations at some point. Tottenham perhaps less so, given the tendency towards snobbishness from the London clubs. West Bromwich Albion and Norwich are possibilities too.
When he was contemplating how to take his career to a new level by leaving Everton, Moyes considered Germany. Schalke 04 or Bayer Leverkusen, the two strongest challengers to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, are the sort of clubs which might appeal to him and which might have mutual interest.
And then there is Scotland. In time, Moyes could manage his former club, Celtic. It could provide the platform for a managerial experience he has yet to savour: actually winning trophies.
He is a natural candidate, too, to manage his country. By then his name and his reputation, currently so disfigured, is likely to have had some repair work.
What next for Manchester United?
United have a problem. They are lower down the food chain than the clubs they see as their challengers at domestic and international level.
There is no prospect of them luring the incumbent manager away from Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City or Arsenal. There is no prospect of them taking the manager away from Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Barcelona (unless those clubs are already willing to make a change on their terms). Nor, as Jurgen Klopp made clear yesterday, does there seem to be any prospect of them taking the current manager away from Borussia Dortmund.
The focus has crystallised on Louis van Gaal as the favourite, at least for now. Van Gaal has pedigree. He's been a big-name winning manager at big clubs: Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
He has won a Champions League. He has the personality and stature to shoulder the pressure of managing United in a way Moyes could not.
Van Gaal is also 62. He left Barcelona in 2003 and Bayern in 2011, when he was sacked as they limped home in third place, 10 points behind Dortmund. For all his undisputed greatness there is a sense that Barca and Bayern - two of United's peer clubs - have moved on from the management and philosophy of Van Gaal. Both enjoyed their greatest modern success in the years after he left.
United have had their unintentional gap year. Van Gaal tends to be a slow starter when he joins a club but after one season outwith the Champions League United desperately need to be back in it by 2015-16, not only for financial reasons but as an inducement to the sort of high-end names they must sign in order to be competitive.
Old Trafford requires stability and rebuilding now and that means a manager who will be around for three or four years at the very least. Does that sound like Van Gaal?
Klopp has the relative youth and energy United need, as does Diego Simeone, the 43-year-old who may be tempted to leave Atletico Madrid if their great current team does, as expected, break-up this summer.
Simeone's temperament will be an issue for some, though, and a more practical difficulty is that he does not speak fluent English.
What did United - rather than Moyes - get so wrong this season? And will it put others off?
When Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward eventually sits with the prospective next manager, what exactly is he presenting to the candidate?
Their squad is desperately short of quality, and they need a shape that can inject effervescence, confidence and ammunition into Robin van Persie and Juan Mata's games, while maintaining the commitment and fight Wayne Rooney showed for Moyes (he was one of the precious few who did).
United's transfer kitty is believed to be between £100m-£200m. What is that these days, at the level at which United aspire to compete, four or five players? £65m was spent on Marouane Fellaini and Mata this season yet neither of them improved the side. They need at least that many, and the only ones who can restore them as a credible Champions League-winning club would have to be enticed to Old Trafford ahead of a season when that competition is not on offer. Managers do not stumble blindly into jobs. Van Gaal or anyone else will do his research and quickly learn that Moyes was poorly served by Woodward, who replaced former chief executive David Gill and lacked his persuasiveness, decisiveness and experience in the transfer market. The new manager also will join a club which grew complacent under Ferguson.
Those senior players who clearly did not fancy Moyes, and gave far less for him than they did to Ferguson, must be rooted out. There is no room for a sense of entitlement at a club sliding down to seventh in the league and facing a battery of impressive domestic rivals.
United have styled themselves as a different club, more noble and high-minded than the herd. While others sacked, United waited. While others made decisions depending on which way the weather vane was facing, United remained calm and aloof.
Appointing Moyes was the quintessential reflection of the Ferguson-era: give a youngish manager his chance, a guy who would be there for the long-haul, who would build the club even higher, who had earned his six-year contract and would be allowed to honour it. Within ten months, United went from Ferguson's vision of a football club to that of the Glazers; an impatient global brand refusing to accept any prolonged separation from the game's highest earning potential. Moyes' six-year deal was worthless.
The next manager will know, too, that some reporters seem to have been briefed about Moyes' departure before anyone had the common courtesy to communicate with the manager himself.
What sort of club behaves like that? United's official statement commended Moyes for his honesty and integrity after the club had afforded him neither of those qualities.
What has this season taught us about Sir Alex Ferguson?
Ferguson has yet to entirely relinquish his role as the grand puppeteer of football, pulling strings and placing his favoured ones in attractive managerial roles.
No-one has put more words in, no-one has marked more cards, no-one has persuaded more chairmen that so-and-so is the man to take their club forward.
Unfathomably those jobs closest to his heart are the ones which seem to expose Ferguson's inconsistency when it comes to placing his favourites. This isn't the first time he ended his own era by recommending a successor who did not work out.
In 1986 Ferguson told Aberdeen directors Dick and Ian Donald that the man they should appoint to replace him was Sandy Jardine, at the time the co-manager of Hearts. Jardine never went on to become the managerial figure Ferguson imagined him to be (and, in any case, Aberdeen appointed Ian Porterfield).
Berti Vogts as Scotland manager: Ferguson had an input to that too.
Aberdeen, Scotland, and now United: Ferguson's genius deserts him when it comes to having an instinct for who would best suit the jobs he cares about the most.
This time, the Glazers will not be burned again by relying only on his recommendation.
Ferguson will continue to attend United games - or haunt them, many will say - and in time he will speak about his disappointment over Moyes and his sympathy for him.
For years it has been said that the time to get the United job is to be the one after the one after Ferguson. That applies now, but it sounds hollow. United are troubled, they need major operations and the best surgeons are tied up elsewhere.
This season has been their perfect storm, almost certainly culminating in the horror of Liverpool winning the league. Now, what if the one after the one after Fergie can't make things much better?