O'Neill sacked after Sunderland slump

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Martin O'Neill's career as Sunderland manager came to an abrupt end after defeat by Manchester United. The result might not have been too surprising, but Sunderland's poor performance indicated a club that is in a slump that could end up in relegation.

O'Neill had seemed an ideal appointment when he took over at a club he had supported as a boy. Initially he made a noticeable difference to the team. This season though, the law of diminishing returns set in. The manager failed to strengthen the side, made some inexplicable signings, and recent form has been dismal.

Immediately after the defeat to United, O'Neill attempted to put on a brave face, but his comments sounded disjointed and desperate. "I'm as buoyant now as I was – I was going to say as I have been," he said. "What is it a half-full glass or a half-empty glass? I'm even going to the three-quarters full."

He was fooling nobody. After impressive stints as manager with Leicester and Celtic, O'Neill's career seems to have gone into freefall. Failure at Aston Villa and now Sunderland has made the 61 year-old unlikely to be offered another Premier League job anytime soon.

There is no shortage of candidates ready to take on the challenge of saving Sunderland from the drop. Mark Hughes is among the favourites, with Roberto Di Matteo and Steve McClaren also possibilities.

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