After all, losing to runaway Premier League leaders Manchester United was hardly a surprise (don't most teams ?). So you can only assume that Sunderland had made the decision to get rid of O'Neill a few days back, and that the board has someone already in the wings to replace him. This looks like no knee-jerk reaction.
But the list of would-be candidates for the Sunderland job is mostly uninspiring:
Terry Butcher - hasn't he been sacked by the club once already (although he is doing a decent job at Inverness CT) ?
Alan Curbishley - now when was he last in a job ?
Paolo Di Canio - no Premier League experience
Sven Goran Eriksson ?!
Ole Gunnar Solskjær - massive gamble for the man with no English managerial experience
Mark Hughes - his track record at QPR was poor (despite all that money to spend)
Steve McClaren - are you having a laugh ?
Alex McCleish - ask Aston Villa, Notts Forest and Birmingham fans what they think
Brian McDermott - a decent bloke, but one who you'd probably want in the Championship getting you back up
And what about the more credible candidates ?
Roberto Di Matteo - having got his CV back on track at Chelsea, unlikely to take a gamble with Sunderland
David Moyes - will leave Everton for trophies, which he's unlikely to get at The Stadium of Light
Gus Poyet - having turned down Reading, he's unlikely to opt for Sunderland
So, there are no obvious candidates to replace O'Neill at Sunderland, and you can't help wondering if the club have made a terrible decision by axing their manager. Sure, the board are clearly hoping that a new man can come in and lift the club away from relegation, but sacking a manager with just a few games to go his a huge risk - unless you have someone credible lined up to come and take on the job. But do Sunderland ? And if so, who is this miracle worker ? Let's hope there is a Plan B.
image: © vagueonthehow