At various points this season, I’ve found myself observing the Premiership’s ever-changing basement slugfest and wondered: ‘Does anybody actually want to stay up?’

On that note, it was polite of Mark Ogren to provide a kind of answer to my question. The Dundee United owner is not actively seeking a return to the Championship, but is – according to claims from the club’s midweek AGM – not losing much sleep over it, either.

Not that I ever expected a Premiership chairman to address my passing thoughts - but if they were to, this would not quite have been the stance I’d have predicted on this particular issue.

Shortly after 2pm on Saturday, the BBC Sportsound panel asked a question of their own: what impact must Ogren’s alleged declaration that going down was not Armageddon have on the Dundee United dressing room?

They did not have to wait long for their answer.

Even from Dundee, Dingwall is a draining drive, but somehow I don’t think the long jaunt north was the primary factor in Ross County – struggling in their own right – walloping doomed Liam Fox’s team 4-0. Don’t get me wrong, footballers should have enough professional pride not to be influenced by ill-advised utterings from the boardroom (hardly a new phenomenon), but it cannot do much for morale when the man who pays your wages declares himself indifferent to whether you do your job properly for the next few months.

And spare a thought for Fox. It is he, ultimately, who has paid with his job. Everyone involved in the scrap for survival has had that distinct ‘stench’ of the drop following them around for at least a while, but I’m not sure any have stunk the place out quite so badly as United did on Saturday.

Even the briefest of highlights packages are enough to convey the calamity – a three-way mix up for the first goal, Ryan Edwards running through treacle for the third, a Grand Canyon-sized hole in the backline for the fourth. Fair enough taking this level of pummelling from Celtic or Rangers, but to do so against a relegation rival? Alarm bells could hardly have been ringing louder.

It was difficult to see a way out of this predicament for Fox, whose Sunday night dismissal suggests Ogren is fearful of the drop, after all. Promoting from within worked for United before with Tam Courts, but it’s always a gamble, not least when things were already going south with Jack Ross.

Perhaps there’s hope for United in that, at several junctures, those around them looked to be in possession of the one-way ticket to the bottom, and may come to find it lurking in their back pocket again.

I think back to Derek McInnes hauling off three of his Kilmarnock players after less than half an hour at Tannadice, of all places, earlier in the season. Before Steven Hammell departed, it was becoming difficult to envision Motherwell turning around an increasingly rapid slide towards danger, one that also included a Scottish Cup humiliation at Raith Rovers. But since Stuart Kettlewell arrived, they’ve taken seven points from their last nine – their 90th minute equaliser against Killie on Saturday suggested they have decided: ‘Yes, actually, we would like to stay up’.

Between Christmas Eve and January 28, St Johnstone lost six league matches in a row, and there was talk of Callum Davidson being sacked. Since then, the only defeat in their last four was to Celtic, and they have moved seven points clear even of the play-off spot. Grinding out a draw against St Mirren when a man light for 45 minutes was a clear signal they do not intend to return to trouble.

County’s thumping of United, impressive as it was, is only their second victory in 12 outings. It was certainly an indication that there’s life in their survival bid yet, but the jury remains out. They may have the most experienced manager in Malky Mackay, but that is not quite as prevalent across his squad. Whether Eamonn Brophy is about to be the man to drag them up the table, or that United were so bad they made look a world class striker, also remains to be seen.

Kilmarnock, meanwhile, have been a puzzler all season. Their home form has generally been good - only Celtic, Rangers and Livingston have beaten them at Rugby Park – and that is often enough to keep teams in the division, but they have struggled to cobble a run of positive results together, which somewhat cancels out being strong on their own patch.

Should any of this offer United hope? Maybe.

Yet, if they cannot somehow regroup from this most disastrous of weeks, it won’t really matter what anyone else does. As well as remaining rooted to the bottom of the table, they’re close to maxing out the Scottish Premiership toxicity-meter. Never mind results and performances, the real sign of impending doom is when the bedsheets and black spray paint start appearing regularly at matches.

Sporting director Tony Asghar has been the primary target of their fury, and receiving Ogren’s backing at the midweek AGM does little to take the heat off him. Indeed, unless he goes and appoints Pep Guardiola, it is hard to see a way back into the United fans’ good graces.

Regardless, it will now be over to him to lead the search for Fox’s successor. It might be a hard sell given their perilous predicament, but there has always been a sense this squad is currently operating well below the sum of its parts – in certain areas, at least.

READ MORE: Dundee United part company with Liam Fox after dismal run

Still, whoever comes in next faces a dauntingly tall order with rapidly diminishing time to do it in.

United do have a game in hand away at Livingston to try and claw back some ground next midweek, but there is little, if any, remaining faith among an increasingly angry support that the writing is not already on the wall. They recently spent four long years watching the club trying to haul itself out of the Championship, and would have been forgiven for thinking a foray into European qualifiers at the start of this season was the end of such dark days.

They could scarcely have imagined what followed that glorious evening when AZ Alkmaar came to Tayside. And that is why, despite what their chairman may or may not believe, going down again really would be the end of the world for them.