Sam Wallace: McCarthy goes down dangerous route

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The Independent Football

Mick McCarthy's decision to rest all but one of his first team for last night's game at Old Trafford is a dangerous new development in the Premier League that could undermine the nature of the competition itself.

If the managers of clubs at the bottom of the division are effectively to throw games against those at the top whom they feel they have no chance of beating, the league will become even more dull and predictable than some people already believe it to be. This was a new low for a league that is dominated by the same old teams.

There are also major issues of fairness. Wolves have an away game coming up on 26 December against Liverpool, a club who could yet realistically challenge United for the title. If McCarthy picks a considerably stronger team for that match it puts Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez at a serious disadvantage.

United may have played a weakened team last season against Hull when there were relegation issues still to be settled, but they had won the league by then and earned the right to rest players with a Champions League final coming up. Besides a second-string United is not the same as a second-string Wolves – and United won.

Last night was a different matter altogether. When small clubs are already writing off games in December there is a problem with the competitive ethic of the league. The Premier League must enforce its rules that all teams field their strongest teams, or start to fear for its lucrative broadcasting contracts.

As for those Wolves fans who sang that they wanted their money back: you wonder if so many of them would have bothered if they had known the team beforehand.

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