Carlo Ancelotti's fate has been sealed by Chelsea's mediocre display at Old Trafford on Sunday. Any forlorn hope that Roman Abramovich might offer him a reprieve was dashed in the 37 seconds it took for Manchester United to stamp their dominance on the game.
Ancelotti admitted afterwards his team had fallen short this season, an assessment that Chelsea owner Abramovich may also apply to the manager. After seeing his team win the Double last season, Abramovich has watched them go backwards in the 12 months since. Including the Community Shield last August, Chelsea have played Manchester United five times this season, and have lost on four occasions, going down 9-5 on aggregate.
A few hours later, and 890 miles away, one of the men currently being assessed as a possible replacement for Ancelotti, Porto's young manager Andre Villas-Boas, was presented with the Portuguese championship amid gloriously chaotic scenes in the Estadio do Dragao following a 3-3 draw with Pacos de Ferreira.
At just 33, Villas-Boas is in his first season as Porto manager and has yet to lose in the league after 29 matches. He has also guided the club to a place in next week's Europa League final against Braga in Dublin.
Villas-Boas's remarkable season has made him a serious candidate to replace Ancelotti, and he meets the criteria that Abramovich is looking for in many respects. He is young and innovative, his team plays attacking, entertaining football, and he has worked at Chelsea before, when he was one of the assistants brought in by his mentor, Jose Mourinho.
However, Chelsea's preferred option remains to appoint Guus Hiddink, who was caretaker manager and won the FA Cup with Chelsea two years ago after Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked. However, Hiddink, 64, has ruled out returning to Stamford Bridge while he is still the national coach of Turkey, which he is contracted to remain up to the European Championship finals next summer.
Chelsea hope that situation may change in the coming weeks. If Turkey lose a qualifier against Belgium next month, their hopes of reaching the 2012 finals would diminish, which could prompt Abramovich to offer compensation for the Turkish FA to release the Dutchman to come to Chelsea – either as manager or to take up an influential place on the board, to oversee a young coach below him.
Villas-Boas, who worked with Mourinho at Porto, Chelsea and Internazionale before becoming a manager, has spoken in the past of his desire to work in the Premier League, although he is thought to have reservations about whether he would be ready to take over a club as big as Chelsea so early in his career. Were he to replace Ancelotti it would not be the first time he has been promoted with incredible haste – he was made coach of the British Virgin Islands national team when he was just 21 years old.
Fluent in English, Villas-Boas was handed his big break when Sir Bobby Robson hired him as a scout during the former England manager's time in Porto. After learning at the feet of Mourinho, in 2009 Villas-Boas became manager of Portuguese side Academica, who were bottom of the league. Not only did he keep them up, he also guided them to the semi-finals of the Portuguese League Cup, before taking up the job at Porto last summer.
Other candidates being considered include the former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, the current Fulham manager Mark Hughes, the ex-Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard and the former Netherlands manager Marco van Basten, who is believed to be Hiddink's personal recommendation.
The new manager's task will be not only to win either the Premier League or the Champions League next season, or preferably both, but also to oversee the rebuilding of an ageing team that has done Chelsea proud for the past seven seasons.
Out of the 11 that started at Old Trafford, only two players – Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz – were not at the club during Mourinho's reign. Abramovich sanctioned £71m worth of spending in January, on Fernando Torres and Luiz, and another spree is being lined up in the summer, with the Brazilian playmaker Neymar from Santos, midfielder Eden Hazard of Lille, Genk midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, Anderlecht striker Romelu Lukaku and Ajax right-back Gregory van der Wiel all under consideration.