'Weakaned' United Makes Mockery Of Media Circus
The UK media people made fools of themselves once again. What a surprise, eh? Sir Alex made it clear before the last Premier League game at Hull City that he would rest his stars ahead of the Champions League final - a decision which did not surprise or enrage the relegation-threatened clubs who respectfully acknowledged Sir Alex's right to field any team he wanted.
But of course the press could not let the matter rest: here was the chance to blow another thing well out of proportion. There were debates raging about whether United have a moral duty to field their strongest XI and The S*n even claimed that the other clubs in danger could sue us, a claim the clubs in question rubbished almost immediately.
And the big day arrived on Sunday: United indeed lined up at Hull who were only one point clear of the relegation zone with a team of youngsters plus Gary Neville, Darren Fletcher, Nani and Wes Brown. Danny Welbeck and Ritchie de Laet made their first league starts for the club and on the bench the senior player was Zoran Tosic, aged 22, who played 20 minutes of league football this season.
And guess what? We still won and deservedly so. Gibson and Fletcher gave fantastic protection to the defence as well as passing the ball very effectively and confidently, Gary Neville and Wes Brown belied age and fitness respectively to provide very good performances and Ritchie de Laet was an unexpected revelation on the left: he was quick, aggressive, skilful, willing to go forward - I did not really understand, back in January, why we had purchased him but he might even have a future here...
Martin, Welbeck, Nani and Macheda provided the attacking thrusts and we were comfortably superior to Hull who looked nervous, devoid of creativity and who were increasingly clinging on to the hope that Newcastle lose as the minutes were passing. Gibson's fantastic goal on 24 minutes was just about United deserved and if Macheda and Welbeck had been more clinical in front of goal this 'mish-mash' team could have won even more comfortably.
In the end, we paid our dues to the 'integrity of the competition' but Newcastle United could not take advantage, losing 1-0 at Villa Park. Many journalists have egg on their faces now after previously suggesting that fielding such a 'weakened' XI is little more than simply throwing away the game and allowing Hull to secure their top-flight status comfortably. But of course most of them are now mightily quiet about it, making it look like they never, for one second, doubted that even this team could beat Hull City in their own backyard.
Now, on to the last game of the season... I'm a tad excited, if you want to know.