In modern football, whatever the crisis, there is invariably another match coming up, to lighten – or deepen – the mood.
So it is with Manchester United, who landed in Spain on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League tie with Villarreal.
Victory over the club who beat them in last season’s Europa League final would put United into the knock-out stages, lifting the gloom at least temporarily. Lose and the skies darken further.
Michael Carrick is in caretaker charge following Sunday’s sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but he admitted he doesn’t know if it is for “one game, two games, or a little stretch longer than that”.
One contender to replace Solskjaer, Mauricio Pochettino, is said to be open to becoming United manager, and even prepared to quit his current club, Paris St Germain, mid-season to do so.
The Argentina is understood to be unhappy with his limited control of football matters in France, and keen to rejoin his family who have remained in England while he lives in a Parisian hotel – not that London is that much easier to get to from Manchester than the French capital.
Another contender, Zinedine Zidane, is reported to be less interested in going to Old Trafford. The former Real Madrid manager is available, but this could result in Zidane replacing Pochettino in Paris, freeing the latter to go to United.
Alternatively United limp on under Solskjaer staff, led by Carrick, whose chances of a prolonged spell in charge would be notably enhanced by a win in Villarreal followed by an acceptable performance at Chelsea on Sunday.
Amid the speculation Carrick is thus trying to focus on the football.
“It’s a challenge,” he said of putting behind them Saturday’s 4-1 humbling by Watford that was the final straw for Solskjaer.
“But quite quickly you’ve got to focus. There is a responsibility here.
“It’s been literally a day, 24 hours, since everything unfolded and the game isn’t much further away.
“That is all I’ve been thinking about, the game tomorrow night – throughout yesterday, today and certainly tomorrow. I’ve not looked past that.
“For however long the club want me to be here, I’ll give it my best.”
That may be guaranteed, but more relevant is whether he can conjure the best from the players who, skipper Harry Maguire admitted, carry their share of blame.
“Ultimately the manager had paid the price so we’re all disappointed,” said Maguire, whose dismissal at Watford hardly helped.
“We take huge responsibility. We haven’t been good enough individually or collectively as a team. We’ve spoken about that and now we’ve got to look forward to get the club back to where it was.
“The last few months have been nowhere near good enough and the players are responsible for that as well. We’re the ones that cross over that white line.
“Now we’ve got to find something from within ourselves. We have to move this club forward.”