The furore surrounding Mick McCarthy’s decision to field a weakened team against an injury-decimated Man Utd at Old Trafford has not died down despite Wolves winning against Burnley on Sunday. Hordes of fans and journalists are attempting to suggest that McCarthy’s decision to rest his “first-choice eleven” has been vindicated because of that win but a little perspective should be applied here. Wolves have won three of their last four games and have cleared themselves of the relegation zone but
they are only three points clear of third-bottom Bolton (despite Wolves being in 12th position) and have in fact played two games more with both Everton and Wigan, who lie one point behind Wolves in 15th and 16th place respectively, having played a game less. Coming off the back of a morale-boosting victory against a good Spurs side surely it would have made more sense to at least go for the jugular of Man Utd, especially when it has been widely publicised that their defence has been decimated by injuries? If they had won at Man Utd and won at Burnley, that would have been four wins on the bounce and they would have been lying in 10th place and six points clear of relegation: a nice cushion that any manager would be pleased with coming into the festive period.
Alex Ferguson defended the Wolves boss after the game but will he extend the same courtesy should Wolves do exactly the same against Chelsea and Arsenal away if the title race is tight? Wolves have reacted angrily to the Premier League, who have written to the club to explain their decision to change 10 players for the trip to Old Trafford, citing Alex Ferguson’s past record of fielding weakened teams. But the reality here is one of competitiveness: mid-season, a Wolves side buoyed after an excellent victory at Spurs, go to Old Trafford and field a reserve side against an injury-ravaged United. The crucial point here is that Wolves effectively handed the three points to United by metaphorically stating (with their team selection) ‘we are rolling over on to our side for you to tickle our tummies’ and their supporters are furious.
Injuries, tiredness and travelling will all be used as an excuse but if he has players who are so delicate then surely the fault lies with the manager who bought them? Changing one or two players, maybe could be accepted, but making ten changes to a victorious side is an admission of inferiority to a side that was there for the taking. Should McCarthy also have considered the integrity of the Premier League and football in general before waving the white flag? The Premier League is financially very rewarding for its members and as such should be respected. There are plenty of Championship sides who would love to be where Wolves are right now. Plus, consider those players who worked for that victory at Spurs: wouldn’t they have preferred to play at Old Trafford, a stadium that every players wishes to play at, even just the once?