Man Utd Threatened With UEFA Punishment Over Weak Team

13 March 2003
Key players Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, and van Nistelrooy all started on the bench Twitter / GafferFergie
Key players Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, and van Nistelrooy all started on the bench

JUST 24 hours after a 1-1 draw with Swiss side FC Basel in a drab Champions League encounter, Man Utd were threatened with disciplinary action after apparently fielding a ‘weakened team’.

What was the issue?

Having little breaks in between league and cup matches, Sir Alex Ferguson decided to rest players such as Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes against a supposedly weak Basel side. However the next day reports suggested that UEFA could order the match to be replayed. The was due to United making a large amount of changes from their previous match.

UEFA responded that night – claiming that United had done nothing wrong. A UEFA spokesmen said “As long as teams pick players from their 25 man squad and/or B list youth players then they are abiding by UEFA competition regulations”. Ferguson followed this statement by claiming he might play a very similar squad against Deportivo the week after.

Were UEFA right?

So should UEFA put in a regulation stopping this from happening. Many might argue that playing weakened teams on a consistent basis can ruin the competitiveness of the tournament. The Champions League is a major competition and the magic of it could be lost without the best players playing. You could also argue that it is unfair on other teams in the same group because they might have had to play against their strongest side.

However a lot of others will say that UEFA were right not to punish Manchester United. You could argue that UEFA had a 25 man senior registration list for a reason and the whole point of a squad is to rotate the starting eleven. It also brings along the debate of ‘what is a weak team?’, how would UEFA judge if teams are playing their weaker players?

Was it even a weak team?

So what’s happened to the supposedly ‘weak’ Manchester United side that played against FC Basel? The starting eleven included both Neville brothers and Rio Ferdinand, ex-France and PSG manager Laurent Blanc, Diego Forlan, Sunderland’s John O’Shea and (at the time!) teenager Darren Fletcher. Their bench looked a lot stronger and included David Beckham, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.

However the bench did also include Port Vale’s recent deadline day signing Danny Pugh and Danny Webber who recently appeared in the BBC one series ‘Class of 92: Out of their league’ about Salford City FC.