Manchester United travel to Hull City for their final Premier League fixture on Sunday, with Sir Alex Ferguson almost certain to field a less than full-strength XI, with next Wednesday's Champions League final in mind. United face Barcelona in Rome and Ferguson will be keen to ensure his best players are injury-free and fresh as they seek to become the first side to retain the trophy since taking on its current format in 1992. Sufficient reason, then, for Ferguson to keep his powder dry at the KC Stadium? Alan Shearer thinks not.
Shearer's Newcastle side sit one point below Hull going into Sunday's matches, with both sides desperate for the win that could secure their top-flight status. And the former Toon striker believes that Hull may be given an easy ride if they line up against United's so-called second string. Surely, though, United and Ferguson should only be concerned with their own interests? After all, football is not a charity, and Newcastle find themselves in their current predicament not because of other managers' team selections but because of their own ineptitudes on and off the field, both this season and in years gone by. Had they earned even a point against Fulham at St James' Park, their destiny would now be in their own hands. As for Shearer's argument that Ferguson has a duty to be 'fair to the league' and 'do football justice', it sounds like the temporary manager is merely preparing his excuses for failure. A manager is accountable to no-one other than his own club when it comes to picking his team - whether that be Arsene Wenger blooding youngsters in the Carling Cup, Martin O'Neill deciding to drop the Uefa Cup down his list of priorities, or Ferguson himself resting first-teamers against relegation-threatened West Ham in 2007. On that occasion, Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock bleated "it's not fair", and Shearer is already pre-empting a similar outcome for Sunday.
If Newcastle United find themselves playing in the Coca-Cola Championship in 2009/10, they will have no-one to blame but the players and managers who have led them into this mess. Which is quite a list.