Early Doors

Why McCarthy was right

Early Doors

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Mick McCarthy
could face punitive action from the Premier League after making 10 changes to
his team to face Manchester United last night.

Angry visiting
fans who saw a shadow side slump to a 3-0 defeat chanted: "What a waste of money", "Where
is our first team?" and "Forty quid to watch the reserves".

Section E, rule
20 of the Premier League's rules and
regulations states that: "In every league match each participating club shall
field a full-strength team".

By effectively putting
out a team of reserves at Old Trafford, did McCarthy contravene that rule, and
must he have the book thrown at him?

Early Doors
explains why the answer is a resounding 'no', and why any action against Wolves would be
grossly unfair.

- - -

1- It has been done before.

Manchester United fielded a team of no-marks against Hull on the final day of
last season (Ritchie De Laet and Lee Martin, anyone?). Fulham stayed up in 2007
thanks in part to a 1-0 win against a Liverpool
side with the likes of Steven Gerrard replaced by stiffs such as Gabriel
Paletta and - horror of horrors! - Robbie Fowler. They did not face any action.

2- McCarthy was trying to maximise his team's league performance.

In the above examples, both United and Liverpool
were sacrificing Premier League performance as they had big Champions League
games coming up. McCarthy's decision
selection was motivated by a genuine desire to score as many points as possible.
By resting his first-teamers for a game they would probably have lost anyway, he
thinks they have a better chance of winning forthcoming games against Burnley,
Liverpool and Manchester
City.

3- You can't
punish him for having a weak squad.

Big teams rest their best players all the time, but we
barely notice because they have 20 full internationals in their squads. There
is no material difference between Michael Owen playing up front for Manchester
United, and Stefan Maierhofer playing for Wolves. They are both reserves.
Wolves should not be castigated just because their back-up players are worse
than United's.

4- You have to prove that David Edwards is
better than Kevin Foley.

All of the Wolves players who took the field last night were
senior professionals. They might not be particularly good, but they are not
children, and if they are in the squad then it seems a mite churlish to deny
them the right to play occasionally. In any case, how do you prove beyond all
doubt that Wolves's front-line
players are better than the second string?

5- There is no sympathy for teams with injuries.

When countless Blackburn
players went down with swine flu, Rovers asked for a postponement. The Premier
League politely reminded them football is a squad game, and until they have 25
players on their death beds they have to make a team out of whoever is available.
Quite right too, but that precedent clearly means the authorities cannot insist
teams pick the same 11 players for every game.

- - -

You might not
thank McCarthy if you were Burnley, who will
presumably find themselves up against the first-teamers on Sunday, but his team
selection was both lawful and actually quite clever.

Last night's
goings-on provide proof positive that the biggest games take place at Turf Moor
and Molineux, not Old Trafford and Anfield.

Popular wisdom says you win the league not by winning games
against big sides, but by ensuring you can take care of business against the
lesser teams.

Likewise, McCarthy's
selection policy clearly shows he considers Burnley
at home a bigger game than Manchester United away.

So maybe, when managers of relegation candidates describe
their season as '38 cup finals', they are actually right and not just whingeing.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Carlo Ancelotti: "I
speak to them in English. F*** off is an excellent language!"

FOREIGN
VIEW:
Internazionale coach Jose Mourinho has admitted he verbally abused
a journalist after Sunday's 1-1 draw
with Atalanta but denied that there was physical contact, refused to apologise
and demanded a Christmas present from the hack.

League officials and Inter president Massimo Moratti are probing the
incident outside the team bus after Italy's
sports journalists' union
complained.

"It's true I insulted one of
your colleagues with a word I cannot repeat that was offensive. But it is not
true that there was aggressive intent or physical contact," Mourinho said.

Mourinho, who has lamented the grilling he gets from Italian media so much
that reports have speculated he could quit in May, said he snapped because the
journalist had been standing by the team bus for months despite his protests.

"I will not make a public apology because the situation was not public
but private," added the Portuguese.

"In front of him, like men, I will be able to talk with him and end
this story. Maybe with a bit of humour - I expect a Christmas present from him."

COMING UP: Four more Premier League games tonight, with live text comments on the lot:Arsenal v Burnley (19:45 UK
time), Chelsea v Portsmouth
(19:45), Tottenham v Manchester
City
(20:00), and Liverpool v Wigan
(20:00).

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