Mick McCarthy was correct in his selection
“What do you think?”
These were the candid words of Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Mick McCarthy when he was asked whether the weekend “six-pointer” against Burnley took more significance then last night’s trip to Old Trafford.
The Irish manager has been greeted by an abundance of critical headlines this morning after he decided to field a weakened team against Manchester United. He had the imminent visit of Owen Coyle’s men to consider and recognised a victory or even a battling draw against a United side looking to get their title challenge back on track was ultimately unlikely.
It has been brandished a move of disrespect. Clearly it will have riled the 3,000 away fans who made the trip to the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, but the realists will applaud McCarthy’s decision.
After their magnificent performance at White Hart Lane, where Kevin Doyle’s goal was enough to seal a famous three points, it seemed inevitable that the players would struggle to match such an effort a mere three days later.
McCarthy pointed to the philosophy of Chelsea boss, Carlo Ancelotti, with the Italian previously having stated that the risk of injury multiples three fold when a subsequent game is within the following three days of the prior match.
With this in mind, McCarthy made a host of changes to his line-up, with goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann the only survivor from Saturday. Big names like Milijas and Doyle didn’t even make the bench.
The English champions ran out easy winners, Rooney and company cantered to a 3-0 win.
It was a brave decision to make. The hectic festive schedule tests the strength of even the largest squads in the Premier League so McCarthy had to ensure he correctly determined his priorities.
Seemingly fielding a full strength team away to Manchester United was not high on the list. Rightly so, having suffered a 4-0 drubbing at Stamford Bridge this season, Wolves need to ensure the fitness of their players for the games in which they have a realistic chance.
Indeed following the defeat to Chelsea, Wolves faced Birmingham City at Molineux, a game which was very winnable, but the performance was tired and lethargic.
McCarthy should be commended for making the controversial decision. Too often managers are stubborn and unwilling to learn from their mistakes.
If Manchester United had an away trip to Liverpool or Chelsea at the weekend, would Sir Alex Ferguson have fielded a full strength line-up? History tells us that there would have been a few changes with key players rested.
McCarthy also argued that he did field a full strength side, picking the 11 fittest guys in his squad. It raises the question of what do we actually deem as a first choice side? Players ranked on quality or players ranked on their fitness?
McCarthy made a calculated choice. Should his side claim a crucial win over fellow relegation candidates this weekend, the former Irish national coach will be applauded for his decision.