TOM DUTHIE: Time ran out for Ray McKinnon as Dundee United boss because the board feared a catastrophe

Time ran out for Ray McKinnon on Saturday, but was the decision to sack him also an indication it’s running out for Dundee United?

McKinnon was informed he would be relieved of his duties in the wake of a depressing 2-0 home defeat at the hands of previously-struggling Inverness Caley Thistle.

Ray McKinnon walks off the field after the 2-0 home defeat to Inverness

On the surface it was down to back-to-back reversals leaving the Tangerines floundering in only fourth place in the Championship, five points behind leaders St Mirren.

With just 10 games of the season gone and having had to undertake a major rebuild of his team for the second summer running, that may have seemed a knee-jerk reaction by the United board.

With so many changes, the team was always likely to need time to gel. Early-season hiccups were always a possibility and so it proved.

As well as those losses to Livingston and then ICT over the last two Saturdays, the Tangerines were soundly beaten when they headed for St Mirren at the end of August.

Throw in a home draw against Dumbarton and a less-than-convincing one-goal victory over lowly Brechin City at Tannadice, it was clear the start to the campaign had been less than smooth.

Ray after being unveiled as United boss in May

Even so, with 26 league games to go, there was still plenty of time to get things right, and a quick glance through the names in the first-team squad would confirm there was enough quality there for that to be the case.

McKinnon thought so and, since the summer, he had warned his team might need time to get up and running — but once they did, the aim of automatic promotion this time round was achievable.

Ultimately, his problem proved his board were not so sure and that’s why they decided to act immediately after what was undeniably a dismal weekend performance — one the manager himself labelled this worst of his time in charge.

And their decision to act so early in the campaign can be taken as an indication how vital to United’s future stability that being back in the Premiership in time for the start of the 2018/19 season is.

Estimates have it that, by then, two seasons out of the top flight will have cost them at least £3 million in terms of lost revenue.

A dejected Ray and assistant Laurie Ellis during the defeat at Livi.

At a time when money is tight everywhere and owners the Thompson family no longer have big bucks to plough in and cover losses, that’s already a disaster.

And it’s fair to say a third season in the second tier would be nothing short of a catastrophe.

Attempts have been ongoing to offset the losses suffered to date by attracting new investment and some money has come from America.

Earlier this year, American-based fan Alastair Borthwick made a donation of around £300,000.

Generous as the New York-based financier’s actions were, that sum looks like a drop in the ocean when compared to those projected losses.

But talks with other money men across the pond have been continuing and rumour has it they could come to fruition in the near future.

There have even been suggestions that could lead to a boardroom reshuffle at Tannadice, one that could include an American presence at that level.

Even if that proves to be the case, there is no question the club will be in a much better place if and when they get back to the Premiership.

That’s why time ran out for Ray McKinnon.