SUNDERLAND, England (AP) — Sunderland reacted to the looming prospect of relegation from the English Premier League by firing manager Martin O'Neill on Saturday, hours after a 1-0 loss to Manchester United left the club just a point clear of the bottom three.
The optimism from the early part of O'Neill's 15-month reign has disappeared with Sunderland currently on a winless run of eight games, culminating in a limp performance against United at the Stadium of Light.
"Sunderland has announced that it has parted company with manager Martin O'Neill this evening," Sunderland said in a short statement.
"The club would like to place on record its thanks to Martin and wishes him well for the future. An announcement will be made in the coming days regarding a successor."
Former Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo, ex-Queens Park Rangers boss Mark Hughes and Steve McClaren, who used to be in charge of England, are being widely touted in the British media as potential replacements for O'Neill.
Sunderland has seven games left in this campaign, with its next three matches against European champion Chelsea, local rival Newcastle and Champions League-chasing Everton. Both Aston Villa and Wigan have shown improved form in recent weeks and are only a point behind with a game in hand.
O'Neill joined his boyhood club in December 2011, returning to the Premier League 16 months after leaving Aston Villa, and was a popular appointment having built a strong managerial reputation during stints at Leicester, Celtic and Villa.