Ferguson revels in City sideshow

 

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson has suggested the Manchester City executive Patrick Vieira was in breach of Football Association rules when he claimed that Manchester United have been the beneficiaries of refereeing decisions this season.

The Manchester United manager's sunny demeanour yesterday revealed an individual clearly revelling in City's struggle to shut down the verbal sideshow, which led to their excoriating criticism of the BBC, late on Wednesday, for an interview in which Vieira discussed refereeing iniquities as he perceives them. Ferguson twice qualified his response yesterday with an acknowledgement that Vieira and City had retracted the comments – made in response to the question of Fulham being denied a late penalty at Old Trafford on Monday. But he still made hay.

"I can bring [Roy] Keane back if he wants – make it interesting!" said Ferguson, in an allusion to the France international's battles with Keane as an Arsenal player.

Vieira's public discussion of City has been a part of the drive to be heard by a club who lack the generations of former playing legends who give United a voice.

But Roberto Mancini and his management team do not want distractions and Ferguson said he thought it possible that Vieira was deliberately trying to create one.

"I'm trying to analyse that, you know," he said. "I'm not sure. He [Vieira] is more or less saying all the refs have been wrong this season – and you're not supposed to discuss referees. He is a paid official, isn't he? I think he is, isn't he? Apparently, he's retracted it. It's interesting."

Ferguson also rebutted Vieira's claim, made at Manchester's Soccerex convention, that City deserved to win the title as they had played the best football.

"They were playing great football in the first half of the season, there's no doubt about that. Everyone recognised that," he said. "We felt the brunt of it when they beat us 6-1. But a season lasts for a bit longer than three months."

Vieira insists he twice told the BBC on Wednesday that he didn't want to enter the debate, though he has never shown a lack of appetite for renewed, head-on confrontations with United.

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