Referees give an advantage to United, claims Vieira

Manchester City official appears to escalate mind games but later accuses BBC of 'cynical' distortion

Manchester City's Patrick Vieira has re-opened the verbal warfare with Sir Alex Ferguson which his club's manager Roberto Mancini is so desperate to avoid, by declaring that Manchester United are given an unfair advantage by referees.

Vieira equipped Ferguson with ammunition eight days ago by claiming that the return of Paul Scholes to United's side was a sign of "weakness" and though there were signs after Ferguson declared City's recall of Carlos Tevez as even more "desperate" that Mancini and his assistants did not welcome the distraction, Vieira ploughed in again yesterday.

"When United play at home they get some advantage that other teams don't get," City's football development executive told the BBC. "I think when you go to United, Madrid, Barcelona, or Milan, when the referees referee these kind of games, it's always difficult to go against these kinds of teams. This is the way it is."

But a sense of how desperate City and Mancini are to avoid the distraction of an off-field conflict with United and their manager emerged last night when Vieira issued an excoriating statement accusing the BBC reporter Dan Roan of taking his comments out of context, in a "serious and cynical" attempt to misrepresent him.

 

Vieira, who spoke to the BBC on behalf of the Football Against Hunger charity, said: "I made it clear in the interview twice that I wanted to avoid criticising United and even stated that I didn't watch the United game against Fulham and had not seen the incident to which the reporter referred. That part of the interview was ignored and my comments were taken completely out of context. I called the reporter twice to ask for a retraction and an apology which has not come."

Ferguson may still respond today at his weekly press conference to comments which appear to have roots in the strong 89th-minute penalty claim from Fulham's Danny Murphy which referee Michael Oliver turned down – allowing United to open a three-point lead at the top of the Premier League on Monday night.

Vieira was bullish about City's prospects: "This is our moment. Since the start of the season we've been the best team and played the best football. I believe the club deserves it. [But] when you are first you have the advantage, they are favourites."

The former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, who ran United close in 2009, also said yesterday that so-called "mind games" do not win titles and that the best way to challenge United now is to shut out anything but football.

"The main thing I would say is to focus on your job – it's about good players and a good team," Benitez said. "I was not following this argument between them. I know that it depends on the players more than the managers. The good thing when you are at this stage of the season is just to concentrate on your team and your performance."

Rio Ferdinand, who discussed United amicably with Benitez at Soccerex yesterday, tweeted: "Why is Viera [sic] so concerned with Man Utd....2 comments in a week or so... c'mon maaaaaan let it go!"

Benitez contributed to a verbal battle with Ferguson in January 2009, by producing a handwritten list of "facts" which included his own assertion that referees are intimidated by the Glaswegian. "To be fair, my press conference, that was because I knew it was the right time to do it," Benitez said. "And afterwards we won 11 games – so people were like, 'Yeah, Rafa [was to blame].' That was not true. [United] were just winning more games than us, that's it." Liverpool did indeed finish strongly – winning 12 out of 18 Premier League games, including a 4-1 win at Old Trafford, and the last five of the 2008-09 season. It was the four drawn games immediately after Benitez's "facts" press conference which proved decisive for a side which had been eight points clear of United, having played three more games, at the time.

Benitez said City could take strength from their 6-1 win at Old Trafford last autumn, in the way that Liverpool did from their 4-1 win in 2009. "I have seen City all year and they have done well. They have the quality, they have the experience and they have the character so for me they don't need too much. It's just to say, 'We are good enough, we will win'."

Mancini, who began yesterday with a pitch-side altercation with Mario Balotelli at Carrington, could at least welcome back Vincent Kompany to training yesterday. Joleon Lescott trained alone with a physio, trying to shake off a groin problem. Carlos Tevez and Owen Hargreaves played for the reserves in their 6-1 win at Morecambe last night.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?