Fans' fury as Wolves field reserves at Old Trafford

United stroll after McCarthy makes 10 changes
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Mick McCarthy last night stood by his decision to rest 10 of his Wolverhampton Wanderers team that beat Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday and effectively wave the white flag at Old Trafford, where his second string were beaten 3-0 by Manchester United.

McCarthy risked the wrath of the Premier League who stipulate in rule E20 that clubs are obliged to play their strongest teams in all matches. But it was the travelling Wolves support at Old Trafford who were the angriest last night, singing "We want our money back", "Where is our first team?" and "Forty quid to watch the reserves".

He admitted that he had rested the 10 players from Saturday, including matchwinner Kevin Doyle, because he wanted his first team to be fresh for the game against fellow strugglers Burnley on Sunday. As is his practice, McCarthy said he had asked his players to rate the effort that they had put in to the game against Spurs and the "majority of them were nine and a half or 10 out of 10."

"We can't have that [kind of effort] on a Saturday and then play again on a Tuesday," McCarthy said. "That was my best team available because they were all fresh legs. They were my best 11 players. I can understand the fans' reaction but this is my first team. I have got 21 players to pick from and they are all first-team players.

"I would hope the fans would understand what I have done. At the end of the day my decisions will be judged on whether we stay in the Premier League. I made some bad decisions last year but nobody remembers them because we won the Championship. If we stay up, everything will suddenly be OK. I knew these questions would be asked but what I didn't want was any more injuries. I thought I had some really good performances."

There are also implications for how United's title rivals will regard McCarthy giving United such an easy ride. Wolves play Liverpool at Anfield on 28 December and there will be close scrutiny of the team he picks, although McCarthy said last night's team was "a decision not a policy". Ironically when Wolves played United in the Carling Cup in September, McCarthy made fewer changes, only six, from his previous league team.

He said: "I wonder if Manchester United were disappointed when I played 3-5-2 at Chelsea or when we attacked Arsenal at our place. I will make the decisions which I feel are for the good of our club."

There were goals from Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic and Antonio Valencia for United but Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest concern was a calf injury to Vidic that puts his participation in Saturday's game against Fulham in serious doubt.

Ferguson described his current injury crisis in defence as "unbelievable". "We just have to get on with it," he said. United are now level on points with Chelsea at the top of the league but second on goal difference. "The important thing for us was to win," Ferguson said. "As long as we get to New Year's Day in touching distance of the leaders we will have a great chance."