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Did Benítez Have To Answer To The PL In 2007?

Oh, righteous anger emanating from the press and from Joe Public is threatening to destroy Wolves manager Mick McCarthy after he had the nerve to shuffle his squad for the visit to Old Trafford, his priority having been to avoid further injuries to key players ahead of a relegation six-pointer against Burnley.

He made ten changes to the team that beat Spurs and now some people suggest that points should be deducted from Wolves and the Premier League officially asked for an explanation from him. Everyone cites the rule that categorically expresses that all participating clubs must field their strongest possible XI in any Premier League game.

I'm sorry but that's rubbish, and for a whole load of reasons. First, how do you enforce such a rule? Second, if every team has a clear, certain strongest XI, managers are unnecessary. But please tell me United's best central midfield. Please enlighten me that who is United's best right-back. Tell me, are we better off with a 4-3-3 formation or should we play with two strikers up front? Did Fergie violate the rule by not starting Fletcher ahead of Gibson yesterday?

First team squads are there for a reason. All 20-25 players are paid to compete when called upon, all of them are senior professionals. If any manager fields his reserves or the Academy side, he can be punished. But he should be allowed to field whomever he sees fit out of his first team squad, really.

Back in 2007, Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 at Anfield and advanced to the Champions League final. Rafa Benítez therefore decided to give a rest to his key players for the subsequent league game at Fulham which was meaningless for the dippers but vital for relegation-threatened Fulham. The Cottagers won 1-0 against a Liverpool team that contained only two of the players who started against Chelsea.

Fair enough, there was an outcry back then as well. But at least the Premier League did not ask for an official explanation - or is my memory playing tricks with me here? I certainly could not find any evidence of it. And there was no reason for it, either: Benítez did nothing wrong back then and neither did McCarthy yesterday. They both selected senior professional players for a competitive game.

Or to look around our own backyard: last year there were whispers that we will rob Newcastle of any chance to stay up by fielding the second string on the last day at Hull City. The sweet irony was that the fringe players deservedly beat an anaemic Hull side but what if they hadn't done so? I believe that Fergie still could not have been blamed even if we had lost. It might sound cruel and heartless but for us the Champions League final was a little more important than Newcastle's survival...

The Mirror's Martin Lipton wrote that McCarthy essentially gave United a 37-game domestic season as he handed the points on a plate. Correct me if I'm wrong but his team did compete, they even had a great chance to go ahead and they were focused on the job throughout. As for the argument that the players lacked the necessary quality: well, Exeter got a draw at Old Trafford in 2005. Did they have superior players compared to Wolves' second string?

The bottom line is: managers should be allowed to pick whomever they want of their first team squad. I promise that I will have no complaints if McCarthy fields the same XI as yesterday when they host Chelsea in the second half of the season.

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The Journalist

Writer: Zae Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday December 16 2009

Time: 6:37PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Well said. I really dont understand all the hype from the press and the reaction from some of the media. Lets face it, we did not put out our youth team. The team was full of internationals and under 21 internationals. Also Zubar, Surman, Foley, Iwelumo, Jones were all in need of a game as all were coming back from injury. The rest of the squad also needed to play 90 mins of football. As you have stated this is a squad game and we have 21 fit players at the moment. I can imagine if we had fielded Doyle, Henry, Milijas etc and then picked up a few injuries then people would be questioning MM for playing them in the first place.
Report Abuse
16/12/2009 19:17:00

Oh, look, Chelsea have made 7 changes for tonights game v Portsmouth....hope the FA ask questions....... ;-)
Report Abuse
16/12/2009 19:30:00

ooop meant the Leauge not FA DOH !
Report Abuse
16/12/2009 19:32:00

Err 7 changes for Portsmouth ! (need new glasses and a hearing aid!) Apologies guys and gals..
Report Abuse
16/12/2009 19:36:00

Very good point Zae
One United 23
Report Abuse
16/12/2009 22:31:00

It is ridiculous and it is because it happened against united. The top four do this ALL the time. We do it in the league cup, we do it when important champions league games are coming up and we do it in the champions league when important league games are coming up. If the top 4 have been allowed to get away with it - with their massive squads and resources - why should wolves' smaller squad not be just as entitled to rest players in such a congested period? If they had more time between games, I could understand the objection.
Report Abuse
16/12/2009 23:45:00

The idiots in charge are usual going with the flow.
Report Abuse
17/12/2009 01:10:00

Excellent points. I enjoyed the game and although I was freaking out at the beginning when I saw the line up, the boys played well. Zubar handed the penalty out and perhaps if he hadn't the match would have been a closer contest. Wolves have had a lot of injuries and can't afford to play the same players on Saturday, Tuesday and Sunday. Squads are squads and all the players can play. The PL can't tell him who to pick!
Report Abuse
17/12/2009 06:12:00

As long as those players are in the squad its totally irrelevant who's picked. Although I must admit I do empathise with Wolves fans having to come OT to not watch their first choice players, reminds me of the Everton semi-final last season in ways. I'm not a fan of Mick McCarthy but credit to him for being honest and up front on why he did it.
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17/12/2009 14:02:00


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