LONDON (Reuters) - Manuel Pellegrini’s 18-month reign as West Ham United manager ended abruptly on Saturday as the Chilean was sacked shortly after his side’s 2-1 home defeat by Leicester City in the Premier League.
The defeat, following the Boxing Day loss at Crystal Palace, left West Ham fourth from bottom, just one point above the relegation zone after a dreadful run of form.
Former Manchester City title-winning manager Pellegrini, who took the team to 10th place last season and briefly into the top four early in this campaign, had already given his post-match news conference at the London Stadium and had not hinted at what was about to follow around 15 minutes later.
West Ham broke the news in a statement on its website.
“It is with great disappointment that we’ve had to make this decision,” joint-chairman David Sullivan said.
“Manuel is a gentleman and it has been a real pleasure to work with someone of his calibre. However, it has become clear that that a change is required to get the club back on track in line with our ambitions this season.
“We felt it was necessary to act now in order to give the new manager as much time as possible to try and achieve that.”
Pellegrini is the sixth top-flight manager to lose his job this season, following Mauricio Pochettino and Unai Emery at London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.
The club are yet to announce who will take charge of the crucial match against fellow strugglers Bournemouth at the London Stadium on New Year’s Day.
West Ham have spent around 150 million pounds ($196.17 million) since Pellegrini took charge, including around 80 million ($104.62 million) in the summer transfer window on the likes of French striker Sebastien Haller, from Eintracht Frankfurt, and Spaniard Pablo Fornals, from Villareal.
For a while, it looked encouraging and there was talk of challenging for Europe when they went on a six-match unbeaten streak after losing to Manchester City on the opening day.
But since beating Manchester United at home on Sept. 28, they have won only twice in their last 13 league games, but not at the London Stadium where a mood of gloom had descended even before Saturday.
“The trick is whether you are able to get that new manager-bounce like Watford have,” former goalkeeper Rob Green said.
“That’s certainly what West Ham need right now.”
Names in the frame for the vacancy include previous boss David Moyes, who left in 2018 after guiding West Ham to safety, and former Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton.
West Ham looked woefully low on confidence against a Leicester side showing nine changes to the line-up beaten by Liverpool 48 hours earlier but who were far too good.
Fans made their frustrations clear on Saturday, jeering Pellegrini’s substitutions of Haller and Manuel Lanzini.
“I understand the fans, they deserve better results and deserve a better performance of the team,” Pellegrini said in his final post-match news conference.
Asked if he could turn around the club’s fortunes, he said: “When you are a manager and you don’t have the points we need to have, of course it is difficult.
“But I have experience. You must try to continue convincing that it is the right way to do it. Football is all about results. Sure, with one game we can win here, maybe Bournemouth, it will make it better.”
($1 = 0.7646 pounds)
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ian Chadband