Vieira renews his rivalry with United

City's new signing says Ferguson's side are a fading force / Frenchman eager to prove he is still a world-class player

It was bordering on the sentimental last night when Patrick Vieira, reflecting on five years away in Italy, said that he had even grown to miss the song Manchester United fans made up for him in the days when he strolled effortlessly through Premier League midfields and waged titanic, intermittent battles with Roy Keane.

"Vieira, oh oh... he gives Giggsy the ball, Arsenal won f*** all..." runs the chant, inspired by the then Arsenal player conceding possession to Ryan Giggs, who set off the slalom that ended with that wonder goal which sealed a famous 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay win at Villa Park. United fans were still singing it when they dumped Arsenal out of the Champions League at the Emirates last May. "I've missed it, so it will be nice to hear it again," Vieira said. "I don't mind the chant. It's part of the atmosphere here and it is completely different than Italy. It's a nicer way to play. I love going to Old Trafford, hearing the fans sing that song. Playing against United was always exciting."

Exciting? That's hardly how Vieira will remember his miserable night at Old Trafford last March, overwhelmed and substituted at half-time as Jose Mourinho's Internazionale lost 2-0 and also exited the Champions League.

But the prospect of throwing on a Manchester City No 24 shirt to encounter Sir Alex Ferguson doesn't feel as overwhelming as it would have done back then. Vieira, a man whose almighty encounters with United continued literally until his last kick of the ball in an Arsenal shirt – the penalty kick which clinched the 2005 FA Cup final in a shootout – has returned for more in the belief that the old adversary are not what they once were.

"They don't look as strong as they used to," Vieira said of the side training a few hundred yards across Carrington's snowy fields. "I don't know why. I haven't watched their games enough but just look at the results. They are not dominating like they used to. United used to be top and so many points clear. That is no longer the case. You have Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool so it is not easy to go away and win games anymore." And can Vieira topple them for Mancini – who has taken the gamble of bringing the player back to a Premier League which looked beyond him when he left north London for Juventus in 2005 – as he once did for Arsène Wenger? "Yes. Yes, of course."

If Vieira delivers nothing else in his initial six-month contract, on which there is the option of a 12-month extension, his calm and lucid articulation of City's belief that their club is no longer the diminutive one in this town gives fans something and it adds even more piquancy to the Manchester clubs' Carling Cup ties later this month.

The overriding question is whether Vieira has the capability to exploit the weaknesses which he discerns in United. Michael Carrick, Anderson and Darren Gibson, the current standard bearers in Keane's role, are certainly not what he was but that goes for Vieira, too.

Harry Redknapp disclosed yesterday that he had been very keen to bring the French-Senegalese into Tottenham's midfield last season and Vieira hinted that he might actually have gone were it not for the intense north London rivalries. "Redknapp is someone I admire a lot," he said. "I like the way that he has been managing his team [but] it would have been difficult to go there as an ex-Arsenal player."

But others are less convinced of the 33-year-old, who has started just seven Serie A games this season. Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn are among those who have questioned City's decision to sign him, though the player wafted away the doubters as forcefully as he did the prospect of United.

"I have nothing to prove to anybody, to Dixon or Winterburn," he said. "I just have to believe in myself. I know what I am capable of. I came back to England and City because I felt I had something to offer. City believe in me and I want to repay their faith. Everyone is allowed to give their opinion but it is one of thousands of opinions. I spoke to the [Manchester City] legend Mike Summerbee only this morning and he told me that he played until he was 40 so hopefully I will too!"

Vieira is not here for the money alone. It is understood that even if he meets the performance targets set him in his highly-incentivised deal he will command a salary of £70,000-a-week – a pauper's wage by City standards – and he has made no secret of the fact that he is here to win back a place in Raymond Domenech's World Cup squad.

Mancini, who may be without Vieira for the arrival of Blackburn on Monday evening because of a knock to the calf the player received in his last Inter match on Wednesday, suggested he would be a regular presence in one of the midfield positions for which competition is fierce. The Italian also relishes the aerial threat he will offer which City do not possess an abundance of.

"He is tall and scores goals with his head, which is important," said Mancini, who reserves judgement on whether Vieira will become his captain.

The Premier League is a faster place than the one Vieira remembers and even he admits that his brain must deliver a little of what is legs once did.

"Can I cope with the changes? Yes, of course," he said. "I might not be as quick as I was at 20, but my brain is still going really fast. Football is not all about running or speed, it is about using your brain and I have no doubt that I can cope with it, no problems."

He was also as bold about City's title pretensions as his manager has been in the past few weeks. City are "a team who can fight for the title," he believes, "because I don't believe there is another team in the Premier League that has the quality of strikers that we have. The players that we have can score at any time during the game. To win games, you need to score goals and we have got that."

Which United haven't? "I can see the morning's papers!" he replied, sensing the controversy. "I haven't forgotten that! I don't say they are better or nor better, but we can score goals." The wise old head is certainly there, even if the legs are not.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
Researchers have said it could take only two questions to identify a problem with alcohol
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style