Manchester City fired manager Roberto Mancini on Monday, exactly one year after he delivered the club's first English league title in 44 years.
The Italian coach, who had four years remaining on his contract, was dismissed just as players from rival Manchester United were being cheered through the streets while they paraded the Premier League trophy that they recaptured from their neighbors.
City said its end-of-season review was brought forward "out of respect for Roberto'' after it was reported that Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini has been lined up to replace him. Mancini's final days in charge were marked by his criticism of City management for its failure to deny those reports.
For his part, Pellegrini is only denying a deal is in place, leaving open the possibility that he could be headed to the Premier League.
Mancini has paid the price for City's failure to build on its position of strength. The club will end the season without a trophy after losing the FA Cup final on Saturday and exited the group stage of the Champions League for the second straight season.
"Despite everyone's best efforts, the club has failed to achieve any of its stated targets this year, with the exception of qualification for next season's UEFA Champions League,'' City said in a statement.
"This, combined with an identified need to develop a holistic approach to all aspects of football at the club, has meant that the decision has been taken to find a new manager for the 2013-14 season and beyond.''
United regained the Premier League trophy from City with four games to spare, and manager Alex Ferguson announced retirement plans last week after almost 27 years at Old Trafford.
Ferguson leaves having seen off City's 14th permanent manager during his tensure. Dubbed the "noisy neighbor'' by Ferguson, City started posing a real threat only after Mancini replaced Mark Hughes in 2009.
By City's standards, before its purchase by Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 2008, finishing second in the league this month would have been an achievement. But a team that has benefited from about $1 billion of investment in five years appears to be going backward.
The FA Cup final, which Mancini won in 2011 to end the club's 35-year trophy drought, was lost this year to relegation-threatened Wigan.
City beat United for the Premier League title last May on goal difference, and Mancini was rewarded with a new five-year contract.
"Roberto's record speaks for itself, and he has the respect and gratitude of Sheikh Mansour, myself and the board for all of his hard work and commitment over the last three and a half years,'' chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said. "He has clearly also secured the love and respect of our fans. He has done as he promised and delivered silverware and success, breaking the club's 35-year trophy drought and securing the title in 2012.
"I would like to personally and publicly thank him for his dedication to the progress that he has overseen and for his support and continued friendship.''
Assistant manager Brian Kidd will take charge of City for the last two games of the season, at Reading on Tuesday and at home against Norwich on Sunday, before leading a postseason tour to the United States.
Even before Mancini's departure, it was destined to a busy offseason for player moves at City - despite the Financial Fair Play restrictions imposed by the Union of European Football Associations.
City's poor recruitment in the last summer laid the seeds for the eventual demise of the former Inter Milan coach.
The club failed to sign its top target, with Robin van Persie opting to join United from Arsenal, and City added low-profile recruits in Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair and Matija Nastasic for about 35 million pounds (now $53 million) in total.
The 48-year-old Mancini let the board know about his unhappiness over the club's dealings, regularly complaining to reporters.
Rodwell and Sinclair have hardly figured this season, and the promising Nastasic has been in and out of the team.
Many of Mancini's big-name players - Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and captain Vincent Kompany - have either failed to shine or were unavailable for crucial periods, affecting City's ability to compete on multiple fronts. His longtime indulgence of Mario Balotelli before the Italian forward joined AC Milan in January raised questions over his managerial approach.
Losses this season to Southampton and Everton count among the worst results in Mancini's reign and were symptomatic of the team's regression.
City's move to appoint former Barcelona officials Txiki Begiristain (director of football) and Ferran Soriano (chief executive) also left Mancini's role under a cloud and hinted at a new direction.
Former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola seemed to be the perfect fit to eventually replace Mancini, but he decided in January to join Bayern Munich on a three-year deal starting next season.
Soriano and Begiristain know Pellegrini well from their time in Spain and probably will be the biggest supporters behind the Chilean's likely appointment.
Mancini also has fallen out with a number of players this year, including Kompany over his decision to play for Belgium soon after returning from a spell out injured, and Samir Nasri for his poor work rate and performances.
"The team looks without passion, desire and (it's) difficult to find an answer why everything went wrong,'' defender Pablo Zabaleta said after the FA Cup final loss.
It will be up to the new manager to restore unity and desire to the club.