Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland have all firmly denied this morning’s allegations they are to take legal action against Manchester United ahead of the champions’ visit to Hull City this weekend. All three Northeast sides rely heavily on Sir Alex Ferguson’s men ending Hull’s debut season in the Premier League and rumours were circulating the trio would take legal action against the Old Trafford outfit should they field an under strength side with the Champions League final in mind next Wednesday.
Newcastle need to better Hull’s result, with Phil Brown’s men currently one point above the Magpies who occupy 18th position. Middlesbrough, who travel to West Ham, need both themselves and United to secure healthy wins, as Gareth Southgate will be looking to make up a deficit of five in goal difference. Sunderland’s task is a little more straightforward: win and safety is there’s. With Ricky Sbragia’s men hosting Chelsea, such an outcome is far from an inevitability and they will be hoping Aston Villa, who entertain Newcastle, and United both avoid defeat.
Each were quick to deny the possibility of a court wrangle based on the Premier League rules which state that member clubs are required to field full-strength teams. (Ironically, the last team to be docked points for such a scenario were Middlesbrough in December 1997, when they called off their fixture away at Blackburn Rovers due to a flu epidemic sweeping through the club).
A Boro spokesman revealed: “It’s not true, it’s nonsense” whilst a Newcastle statement read: “There’s no truth in it whatsoever”. Despite Sunderland refusing to comment on the story, sources from the club insist there is no foundation to the reports.
Following their damaging 1-0 home defeat to Fulham at the weekend, Alan Shearer was asked about the side Sir Alex would field at the KC Stadium. He responded: “Alex, when he has been in that position, has always put out a side that does his club proud, so whoever he puts out, Manchester United are that professional so they will go out and try to win that game. I have not got any problems with that.”