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?
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

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable