The Arsenal and Man Utd icons had an uneasy relationship on the field throughout their playing career and despite things having improved since retirement, it’s clear there are still some tensions
Arsenal icon Patrick Vieira could not resist a cheeky dig at Manchester United rival Roy Keane after taking an emotional trip back through his career.
The iconic former midfielder – now the manager of Crystal Palace – was the latest guest on BT Sport’s What I Wore series, with the premise of the videos taking players back through their careers with the classic shirts they donned in their playing days.
Of course, Vieira had his fair share of legendary shirts to look through including Arsenal, AC Milan, Juventus and the French national team. In the meantime, there was also a vast array of shirts that he came up to face throughout his career – most infamously former Man United captain Roy Keane’s.
The pair had a bitter relationship on the field throughout their career with a number of brutal showdowns taking place both at Old Trafford and at Highbury, whilst an incident between the two in the tunnel in north London has gone down in Premier League folklore. Presented with Keane’s shirt at Palace’s training ground, Vieira cheekily refused to touch it but did admit his admiration of the Irishman.
He smiled: “That’s why I put my hand in my pocket, I do not want to [touch] the shirt. From the first game [against Keane]I knew straight away that it will be a fight in every single game.
“So I loved the way he was on the field, it was massive respect. And he was a leader, he was the captain of the team, he was the one who was driving the team and the players to compete at the level he was, challenging the players.
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“I admire him as a captain and I knew he would be one of the battles to try to win when you’re on the pitch.”
Vieira was then asked if he thought he was a better player than Keane and it was not a surprise to see the Frenchman launch another cheeky dig at his former opposite number.
Speaking with a wry smile, he said: “Much better. I would say much better, yes. ”
Of course, the rivalry between Keane and Vieira was just one element of a fierce competitiveness between Arsenal and Man Utd in the early 2000s, the two clubs battling for a number of Premier League titles.
Vieira has opened up further on the challenges of competing against a Red Devils’ side spearheaded by legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
“They were the best team, they were the team to beat,” he explained. “If you wanted to win the league you had to be above United.
“So that was passion, that was competitiveness, and I did not want to use the word hate, but it was love and hate.”