Gary Neville sacked at Valencia - will Jose Mourinho take over?
Former Man United star fails in his first managerial role - and Old Trafford could suffer as a result
Gary Neville has gone. To the relief of the Valencia faithful, the former Manchester United and England defender was sacked on Wednesday afternoon, less than four months after arriving in Spain to great fanfare.
But his sacking could have ramifications back in Manchester, if Valencia try to lure Jose Mourinho to the Mestalla Stadium.
Despite having no previous managerial experience, Neville was welcomed as the man to restore Valencia's reputation after their shaky start to the season.
But far from reviving the club's fortunes, his reign has been a shambles, Valencia slipping to 14th in La Liga with just three league wins in his 16 matches in charge. Dumped out of the Champions League, Europa League and the Copa del Rey under his stewardship, Valencia hit rock-bottom last month, losing 7-0 to Barcelona.
Off the field, Neville became the target for fans' frustrations, with disgruntled supporters burning his effigy during the city's annual Las Fallas festival last weekend while chanting: "Gary ¡Vete ya! [Gary, go now!]". He wasn't the only Valencia figure to go up in flames, however, with fans also torching papier-mache dummies of the club owner, Peter Lim, and its chairwoman, Layhoon Chan.
That might have been the last straw for the pair. On Wednesday afternoon, the club issued a brief statement in which they said Valencia had "parted company" with the manager.
The club have appointed former Liverpool coach Pako Ayestaran as boss until the end of the season.
It is another dramatic fall from grace for a former star player trying his luck as a manager. What will be particularly galling for Neville is that he had carved out a reputation as an astute reader of the game while working as a pundit at Sky Sports. His status will have been somewhat reduced by his time in Spain.
Neville, who had joined the England coaching staff in 2012, went to Valencia with Roy Hodgson's blessing, the Three Lions manager declaring: "This will be an extra string to his bow and the experience he will gain working in the Spanish league can only be beneficial to our work together with the England team."
The 41-year-old will now return to the England camp to help prepare the squad for the summer's European Championships.
There also remains the likelihood that he will resume his former position with Sky Sports, which said, at the time of his departure, that "the door will always be open should he wish to return."
Nonetheless, the brevity of his first proper managerial job will hurt Neville. "I would have liked to have continued the work I started but understand that we are in a results business and in the 28 games, they have not been to my standards or to those which are required by this club," he said.
As to who might replace him, The Sun believes it's none other than Jose Mourinho, the paper's prediction coming 24 hours after it announced the Special One was inked in as Manchester United's next manager.
The Sun claims the former Real Madrid boss has "already held serious talks" with Valencia about the vacancy and he must now decide between heading to Spain once more and waiting for an offer from Old Trafford.