Was Mick McCarthy Justified In His Team Selection v Manchester United?


I’d like to open up a bit of good old fashioned debate here on EPL Talk concerning the recent exploits of one Mick McCarthy. Tuesday night at Old Trafford saw Manchester United draw level on points with league leaders Chelsea with a 3-0 victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

You might be thinking, “that doesn’t sound out of place”. Wolves were surely looking at a year long fight to stay in the Premiership after winning the Championship last season. That’s yet to be determined, what is known is that in anticipation of his team’s clash with potential relegation fighters Burnley at home this Sunday, McCarthy made 10 changes in his starting eleven that won at White Hart Lane v Tottenham this past Saturday.

In the aftermath of the defeat, the Premier League have come out and asked McCarthy to explain his decisions in making so many changes to his first team (only U.S. goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann kept his starting spot for Wolves).

The Premier League board have written to Wolverhampton Wanderers to request their observations in relation to the team fielded in their League fixture against Manchester United,” the league said in a statement. “Once the observations are received the board will decide whether any further action is warranted.”

Angry Wolves fans who made the trip to essentially watch their reserves suffer defeat at the hands of the current champions chanted, “we want our money back“, and “42 pounds to watch the reserves“.

McCarthy has defended his decision to field a weakened team by urging fans to realize he has the entire season’s goal of staying up as his motivator. “I understand the reaction of the fans and I knew these questions would be asked,” McCarthy said. “But my decisions will be judged on whether we are still in the Premier League.”

Fielding weakened teams in the Premier League for the long or short term benefit of your club is no new theme. Liverpool famously sent a B squad (making 9 first team changes) to Craven Cottage in May of 2007 just before they were to face AC Milan in the Champions League Final (Liverpool had just beaten Chelsea in the League midweek). That Saturday, Fulham won 1-0 with a Clint Dempsey strike securing their first win in 11 games and subsequently easing their relegation worries.

Should McCarthy have fielded his strongest team at Old Trafford thus risking the fitness of his first team players before what he believes to be a more winnable match? Is the decision of which team he fields anyone’s business but McCarthy’s? Have your say.

7 thoughts on “Was Mick McCarthy Justified In His Team Selection v Manchester United?”

  1. I personally think the practice is detrimental to the game, for any number of reasons.

    Firstly, though I’m a United fan and would gladly take the three points offered up by Wolves, from a Chelsea or Arsenal perspective I could completely understand that the teams and their respective fans would feel miffed at a major rival being gifted a win – what would be said if a title were decided under such circumstances, with all three vying for the championship in the last round? I’d be ropable if United lost the EPL title under such circumstances, and if we won a title based on such a performance I’d consider it a hollow and undeserved win, even if circumstances were beyond United’s control.

    Secondly, how are Wolves fans supposed to feel each and every time management pulls this stunt? The calls for a refund are perfectly valid, because they did not get value for money from a manager who threw a game he thought he’d lose anyway, claiming he had to take the longer view. Fine, then tell the fans in advance so they won’t waste either their passion their money, or their false hope of a shock win by turning up – ah, but managers like McCarthy wouldn’t want to lose that revenue, would they? Sure United field reserve teams for things like the Carling Cup, but Fergie always lets it be known what he’s doing well in advance. And besides, United’s reserves are a different kettle of fish to those that Wolves has to put forward.

    Lastly, if the tactic were taken to its natural extension then all teams fighting for survival in the top tier would or should start planning ahead for the games they’re going to throw and just mark down those that they plan to get serious about. That way we can all pencil in the gimmes before the season even starts and stop wasting our time looking for giant-killer performances by the minnows against our team’s chief rivals. Thank Goodness Burnley didn’t see it that way at the start of the season when they pulled off one of the major upsets by beating United – and I say that as a United fan of 40 years standing.

  2. I think this was a wholly pragmatic decision by McCarthy and one as a Wolves fan that I’ll support, albeit somewhat unhappily. Would I have preferred to see Doyle, SEB, Milijas etc out there? Yes – I was disappointed and would have been more so If I had been at the game, but on reflection thought that our lads did commendably well all things considered.

    Some of the comments about this being another step towards a two-tier Premier League are way off. Under most circumstances MM would not have made the decision he did. Under most circumstances we would have had a proper go like we did against Man City and Arsenal. And I don’t think this tactic is going to be one we suddenly see commonly employed.

    We have played Chelsea, Arsenal, Birmingham, Bolton, Tottenham, Man Utd in recent games and are set to play vs Burnley, Liverpool & Man City over Christmas. That sort of difficult run-in is a rarity and even well-paid pro footballers with all the desire in the world have their limits.

    From his comments, Mick and the players are obviously scoring games in terms of effort required, the game we won against Spurs on Saturday being an example of one of the most difficult. You could see how knackered some of the players were at the end of that game – Doyle could hardly move. Remember, Wolves don’t have a lot of technical quality in their team but they make up for it where they can with a fantastic workrate – we have the highest % of successful tackles in the Premier League. But that workrate is bound to take its toll and to repeat that level of effort again on Tuesday, professionals or not, fit or not, might have brought about a result against the odds, but was more likely to result in all our best players being knackered, possibly injured and possibly with their confidence knocked following a defeat (like it was after Arsenal/Chelsea defeats when we subsequently lost in our worst performance of the season vs Birmingham).

    As it is the team that won against Spurs will be uninjured, well rested and (I hope given all of this media hoopla) with confidence still buoyant.

    I can completely understand MM’s decision therefore. He did what he thought was best for our chances of Premiership survival. When he says he put his strongest team out, in a perverse way he is bang on correct if you take everything into account.

    And – if you watched the match you’ll know that Wolves didn’t do too badly for a hastily cobbled together team – which, by the way, mostly consisted of players who have started in a number of Prem games.

  3. I don’t think its a pretty decision on the face of it but in reality sometimes you have to take the difficult decisions that will be unpopular and I feel thats what he did.

  4. I’m in England and there was a huge fuss about this on the radio this morning, The presenters were saying that it was a shambles and a disgrace to the epl. I think the biggest problem with it though was the fact that 3,000 wolves fans had travelled to the game at Old Trafford and spent atleast £100 (don’t know what that is in dollars, maybe $180) to watch a game played by their reserves. This was not good for the fans and not good for the league.

  5. I think it’s a brilliant decision. Especially if they take 3 points from Hull and basically switch with them in the table by the end of the weekend.

    McCarthy should be able to do what he needs to do as manager, which is what I love so much about this league. Watching managers rest key players or substitute for them when a game is in hand is all a part of the process of a season.

    The whining needs to go as far as I’m concerned.

  6. There are a lot of misunderstandings flying around.

    From those of us who were at the game, the majority of us (Wolves fans), were singing pretty ironically, and had a good time despite the team selection. In fact the “we want our money back” was far more of a reference to the shambolic (lack of) atmosphere at Old Trafford. I would hate to be one of the remaining real United fans who have to put up with all the tourists and first-timers that drain what is an impressive ground of all noise.

    I find it disconcerting the way McCarthy is being roundly criticised by all quarters, yet when Benitez, Wenger, or Ferguson do similar no-one bats an eyelid. Frankly the fact that a team such as Wolves feels the need to do this should be the eye-opener the Premier League needs in levelling the playing field and stopping the death of English football at the hands of increasing money and greed.

  7. Shouldn’t Wolves fans be more concerned with the manager doing whatever is necessary to keep the team in the top flight? They are level on points with Bolton in 17th but still in the relegation zone right now. A win over Hull moves them to 14th and puts them in a much more advanced position. If Wolves’ supporters are more concerned with seeing Kevin Doyle play instead of their team succeeding then they have problems. But I have a feeling this is more of a media issue than a Wolves supporter issue.

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