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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleComedian launches stinging attack on PM
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
News
Andy Murray shakes hands after defeating Andreas Seppi of Italy in the third round of Wimbledon, Saturday 4 July, 2015
Wimbledon
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
News
Yoko Ono at the Royal Festival Hall for Double Fantasy Live
people'I wont let him destroy memory of John Lennon or The Beatles'
News
Could Greece leave the EU?
news
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

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'