The end is near, but nobody knows quite when David Moyes’ miserable reign as Manchester United manager will be brought to a close.
In circumstances befitting a club in chaos since Sir Alex Ferguson announced his decision to retire last summer, stories emerged on Monday afternoon across the mainstream British media that the struggling Scot will soon be sacked.
With United refusing the opportunity to deny the stories, and instead seemingly hiding behind unnnamed sources, there seems no prospect of Moyes stumbling into a second season.
In line with the amateurish way business is now handled at the record 20-time league champions, no definite date was included.
Will United legend Ryan Giggs become player-coach until the end of a painful campaign? Or will Moyes be granted a stay of execution until the final match at Southampton on May 11?
The Scot has been left in limbo by the well-placed leaks from the top. Where is the final statement, the authoritative voice announcing the inevitable? Instead, the club’s despised owners the Glazers have kept their counsel.
Moyes is now a dead man walking, completely undermined by a side which is washing their hands of him in public after a disastrous debut campaign.
But, has this been engineered to test the waters? To force a resignation and deny the 50-year-old much of the lucrative compensation the termination of his six-year contract would lavish on him?
No serious side, determined to compete once again at the top table in world football would do this. Moyes would already be clearing his desk before the media were given any inclination of his fate.
Neither would a truly elite club allow one man, no matter how great, to decide on a candidate so woefully under-qualified.
When Ferguson made the call to pass on control at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ to Moyes, he was employing someone without a major honour to his name during a respectable 11-year spell at Everton.
This was the equivalent of Bill Gates allowing a regional electronics store manager to guide Microsoft. That error was compounded by allowing David Gill, the brightest and best-connected executive in the sport, to step aside.
Into the power vacuum followed Ed Woodward, the former banker who helped arrange the scandalous financing deals that granted the Glazers control while with JP Morgan.
Unsurprisingly, last summer was a disaster in the transfer market. The embarassment has continued throughout the season, as the awkward defeats mounted and pressure built to an intolerable level.
United should have moved for someone at the pinnacle of the sport a year ago, a person who would not sink under the weight of 26 trophy-laden years under Ferguson.
Now, those same managers, will be watching Moyes being treated wretchedly by the bumbling decision makers that erred in ever selecting him. If you were Jurgen Klopp, Louis van Gaal or Diego Simeone would you want to work for those same employers?
Manchester City narrowed the gap to Premier League leaders Liverpool to six points with a comfortable 3-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion at Eastlands on Monday.
Pablo Zabaleta, Sergio Aguero and Martin Demichelis all scored for City as three different Argentinian players netted in a Premier League match for the first time.
West Brom showed brief moments of skills and had pulled the score back to 2-1 through Graham Dorrans, but ultimately City had too much quality.
City will close further on Liverpool should they win their game in hand, although they still need the Merseyside club to drop points in their remaining three games if they are to take the title themselves.
"Job done and we had some very good starts in the game, so we'll take the positives out of it and take it with us into the next four games," City captain Vincent Kompany told Sky Sports.
And the Belgian defender said City had it in them to repeat their form of two seasons ago, when they won the title in the closing minutes of the season.
"I'm as motivated as anyone," he said. "We can still remember what happened for us two years ago, so it's kind of something where we take motivation out of it."
Manuel Pellegrini, the City manager, responded to his side's 2-2 draw with Sunderland with three changes as Gael Clichy, David Silva and Edin Dzeko came in for Aleksandar Kolarov, James Milner and Alvaro Negredo respectively.
The hosts were also still without influential midfielder Yaya Toure, who is recovering from a groin injury, while West Brom recalled Craig Dawson and Billy Jones to their defence.
But it did not take a much more fluid City side long to assert their authority in the game and they took the lead in the third minute with a header from right-back Zabaleta.
A weak header from West Brom defender Liam Ridgewell fell to Aguero who struck a powerful first-time volley which was parried by Ben Foster, but Zabaleta anticipated the rebound to head into the vacant net.
Aguero lifted a shot over the crossbar moments later when he got on the end of a cross from Samir Nasri, but it was not long until the Argentina striker got his name on the scoresheet.
West Brom's defence backed off Aguero in the 10th minute and were punished as he arrowed a low shot into the corner of the net from just outside the penalty area.
The visitors pulled a goal back six minutes later through Dorrans with a brilliant goal on the counter-attack after a breakdown in communication between Fernandinho and Silva at a free-kick in West Brom's half.
Dorrans received the ball on the edge of the box from Matej Vydra and expertly lifted it over City left-back Clichy with his right foot before he spectacularly volleyed past goalkeeper Joe Hart with his left.
City always looked more likely to add a third goal before the interval and it duly arrived from a Nasri corner flicked on by Vincent Kompany into the path of Demichelis who escaped Jonas Olsson at the back post and guided the ball home.
The second half was decidedly more subdued, although City fans will nervously await updates on Spain playmaker Silva who was taken off on a stretcher with an ankle injury after an awkward tangle with Morgan Amalfitano in the 70th minute.
West Brom seemed determined to make a fist of it in the remainder of the contest and Amalfitano forced Hart to scurry across goal to keep out a fierce drive.
The Baggies, still just three points above the relegation zone, threw on Saido Berahino in an attempt to inject some energy in their play and the promising youngster gave City fans a scare when he got a toe on a curling effort from outside the area which Hart almost diverted into his own net.
James Milner had an opportunity to add a fourth for City in injury time but Foster did well to block at his near post.
Dimitar Berbatov scored one of the goals of the season as AS Monaco beat their rivals OGC Nice to ensure their second spot in French Ligue 1 and qualification for next season's Champions League.
The side had kept up to pace with leaders PSG for most of the season before declining in recent months as a lack of depth betrayed Claudio Ranieri's ambition to topple the Parisians one season after climbing back to the top flight from French Ligue 2.
Falcao's knee injury at the end of 2013 called a day to ASM's ambitions, though his replacement Dimitar Berbatov had a convincing six months since being brought from Fulham in January.
On Sunday, he scored one of the most brilliant goals of the season with a delightful lob using the outside of his right foot in a very tight angle in the 5th minute of the French Rivieras derby against OGC Nice. Few players would have attempted this shot, even less would have converted it.
It proved enough for ASM to register a 1-0 home win that sees them ready to prepare next season's Champions League.
An overhaul is on the cards as head coach Claudio Ranieri is said to be on his way out, with Zinedine Zidane as a potential successor.
Though the prospect of France's greatest ever player taking over is fairly unlikely, it testifies to how far ASM will need to dig if the side wants to be competitive on the domestic and European scene as of next season.
On Sunday, the side was stretched and suffered in spades against OGC Nice in the 85th derby of the French Riviera – between two cities separated by just 15km along the coveted Côte d'Azur – the country's most exclusive area.
With a budget of €35 million, the OGC Nice side could barely have paid half of what it took AS Monaco to bring in James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho last summer.
Despite the financial gulf separating the two sides, ASM could not convert its chances in the first half when homegrown Valère Germain (who was celebrating his 24th birthday) hit the post shortly after Berbatov's opener.
Quality faded among the ASM ranks during the second half when a brave OGC Nice side fought all the way.
Though the scoreline will shortly be forgotten, a unique moment in football history illustrated the game.
OGC Nice coach Claude Puel, himself a one-club player with AS Monaco throughout the 1980s, made the unprecedented move of fielding his two sons. Right-back Grégoire Puel (23), already a mainstay in the side since the beginning of the season, was joined by his 16-year-old brother Paulin, playing up front in the last minutes of the game, to offer a truly special sight to the 2800 OGC Nice fans who made the short trip along the French Riviera.
This was the first time a head coach had his two sons playing simultaneously in an official game.
Though Paulin failed to impress during the short time spent on the pitch, his reputation as an unstoppable goalscorer in the U17 side might let him get more appearances in the first team next season – provided his father survives summer at the helm of the side.
Elsewhere in Ligue 1…
– PSG won their first trophy of the season on Saturday, beating Olympique Lyonnais 2-1 to secure the French League Cup thanks to a Cavani brace.
The game will perhaps be best remembered for the strangest of introductions when the trophy was brought on the pitch by security forces going down from a helicopter.
– Third-ranked Lille registered their sixth goalless draw of the season against Olympique de Marseille, proving once more the side’s solidity but also the lack of entertainment for the neurtal fans.
– There is only one Corsican side left in the French league as AS Ajaccio was officially relegated this weekend.