Ferguson delights in Vieira's discomfort over refereeing row
Man Utd manager piles on psychological pressure as Vieira apparently escapes FA hearing
HEAVEN forbid Alex Ferguson was trying to suggest Patrick Vieira should be charged with bringing the game into disrepute! It was simply that the Manchester United manager was pointing out that the Frenchman had been ill-advised to broadcast his thoughts about referees to the BBC.
As Vieira, now employed by Manchester City as the club's ‘football development executive', continued to insist his views had been misrepresented in the interview, Fergie took time out to analyse what Vieira had said about United apparently getting the benefit of referees' doubt.
"He's more or less saying all the refs have been wrong this season and you're not supposed to discuss referees," said Ferguson, adding as an innocent afterthought: "He is a paid [club] official isn't he? I think he is, isn't he?"
Indeed he is, though The Sun claims the Football Association won't instigate a disciplinary hearing against the former France and Arsenal midfielder because his comments were "not serious enough or specific in their nature for action to be taken on this occasion".
Vieira made his comments after United's 1-0 defeat of Fulham at Old Trafford on Monday, a victory in which the visitors had a strong claim for a penalty turned down. "When United play at home they get some advantage that other teams don't get," Vieira told the BBC's Dan Roan. "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 kind of teams. This is the way it is."
Asked specifically what he thought of Vieira's assertion, Ferguson breezily replied: "Somebody said a few years ago that Manchester United always get penalty kicks at Old Trafford, but when you go through the statistics since I have been here, it only averages out at three a year. You cannot say that is a lot for an attacking team like ourselves."
With Dan Roan now banned from the Etihad Stadium by City officials for "serious and cynical misrepresentation", and Vieira still declaring his anger that his words were taken out of context, the whole furore is delighting Fergie, who sees it as a further sign that City are feeling the strain of a title race in which they trail United by three points.
Alluding to the battles Vieira had with Roy Keane whenever Arsenal played United a decade ago, Ferguson joked:"I can bring Keane back if he wants, make it interesting!"
Quips from Ferguson are as rare at United as an appearance from Michael Owen but the Scot was no doubt keen to convey an air of insouciance on the same day that photographs appeared showing City manager Roberto Mancini exploding in anger at Mario Balotelli during a training session. The message from Fergie couldn't be clearer: we're cool, we're calm, we're enjoying the pressure. And you City, how are you coping…?