There was never any backing down when Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira met on the pitch, and the same applies now both have swapped playing for punditry.
With Vieira now allied to Manchester City rather than Arsenal the duo still represent the two leading clubs in England, and both believe their club will be the one to respond best to last week’s dramatic Premier League title denouement.
Keane, a multiple title winner as a Manchester United player, stressed United had seen off a series of contenders, including Vieira’s old club, and that Sir Alex Ferguson would relish the challenge of doing the same to City about whom doubts remained.
“What the top teams do is come back and win it again. And that is the question mark for City. They have made great progress but for all the talk of talent they have, they won the league by perseverance. Their second goal was from a set piece. For all their attacking flair, it was desire to win that last game that got them over the line."
Vieira, who’ll be working with his old sparring partner at Euro 2012 for ITV, agreed winning successive titles was the challenge for City.
“We are not United because they have been winning trophies for the last 20 years, but there is still a lot to come,” said Vieira. “I think it is really important for a team to win the league back-to-back. With Arsenal we never did that but if you want to make a domination that is really important. We want to be at the top all the time. Arsenal have played in the Champions League (year after year) and it’s not enough.
“We had two or three days of celebration and now it is time to think about what is going to happen next season. We are at the start of what we want to achieve. It’s a new generation who want to write history at the football club. They don’t want to stop here, they want more success and I think that’s what make it really exciting for the next few years. I’m not just talking about the players and the team, I’m talking about the football club, the brand. The club is in a different level now. We haven’t achieved what we can achieve yet.
“City won both [derby] games, scored more goals and conceded less so they are worthy champions and good luck to them,” said Keane. “But for all the doom and gloom at United, they lost the league on goal difference. Never write off United. Never doubt United. United always bounce back. It’s in the nature of the club.”
Keane rattled through the burned out skeletons of past challengers: ““Going back over donkeys years Blackburn had a decent spell, then Arsenal - they haven’t won anything for seven years now, Chelsea, they are coming back a little bit now, Liverpool, look where they are now…
“Sunday was a hard one for United fans to take but I think will actually enjoy that challenge because the games are closer. The manager will, you can see that in his eyes.
“People have written him off before. When Chelsea won the league a couple of years running they said he was finished but he is still going strong. He will want to go out on a winning note but just listening to him and watching him he will go on for a few years yet. Even if they win the league next year, the Champions League, I think he will carry on.”
Keane said he expected United to buy a couple of players, but added, “they would probably have done that even if they had won the league.” Vieira said while he expected further transfer investment at City stability was important. “The more you keep the team together, the more you know each other and I think that brings success.”