The Scot will likely have told his Cardiff City players that they would recover from their result against Southampton on Boxing Day but he will have been aware too that his relationship with the club's owner was already beyond repair; Vincent Tan yesterday giving the order for his manager to be sacked. Their rapport had already been fractured badly and the situation has at least now been given a clean break.
Tan had taken aim 11 days ago - a leaked email indicating the Cardiff owner wanted Mackay to resign or he would be sacked - but waited before pulling the trigger. When he did nobody flinched. The ultimatum from Tan had been formulated as a choice between two options but he had asked his erstwhile manager to pick just one outcome. Mackay will have known that he would not see out the season at the club.
It had been supposed that the two men would meet to discuss their differences, issues which centred most recently on Cardiff's intentions during the impending transfer window. Instead, they would express themselves with individual statements; Tan's choreographed to move him away from the debris of his fall-out with Mackay, while the Scot rested simply on the foundations he had left in place for his successor.
They might also form the basis for interest from West Bromich Albion, with Mackay now the favourite to take charge of the club after their talks with Pepe Mel, the former Real Betis manager, broke down. "I leave with my head held high having gained a level of experience that, upon reflection, I suspect would have been difficult to find anywhere else in British football," read a statement released by Mackay's agent. "The foundations laid here at Cardiff City will provide a solid platform for my successor and for the sake of the club I hope the progress that has been made will not be impaired in any way by today's enforced changes."
That progress had been sign-posted by an appearance at a League Cup final and last season's promotion to the Premier League after the Welsh club lifted the Championship title. Any moves by the club have been less clean cut of late, though, with Tan stating yesterday that the decision to sack Mackay was taken as a result of "far too much dirty linen" being aired. It is a choice which will not wash among many supporters, given the protests which were carried out against Tan in defeats by Liverpool and Southampton.
"There has been a good deal of publicity generated by, and about, Mr Malky Mackay for the last few months," read a statement from the Malaysian businessman, who has put existing coaches David Kerslake and Joe McBride in temporary charge. "Indeed, far too much dirty linen has been exposed to the public gaze but, I stress, not by me.
"I have, however, regretfully concluded that it is no longer fair to the club, its players, its fans and the public more generally for this uncomfortable state of affairs to continue. Cardiff City means far too much to us all for it to be distracted by this."
The situation certainly took the attention away from Cardiff's league record. Mackay is a popular and commended manager but he led the club to just two wins in 12 matches and leaves with them just a point above the Premier League's relegation zone. It is a difficult position for a new manager to step into, with former Manchester United forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, currently manager of Molde, the favourite to succeed Mackay in Wales.
Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and travelled Turkish coach Yilmaz Vural have also been linked to the post, although a statement from Cardiff's Supporters' Trust last night suggested that fans were concerned more by management of the club at the very top too. "Recent controversies have damaged the relationship between the club and fans," it read. "This whole episode highlights the need for strong supporter engagement in clubs."