Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson is trying to work out whether Manchester City are actively trying to lure him into a war of words.
Last week, Ferguson responded to a jibe from City’s football development executive Patrick Vieira about Paul Scholes’ retirement U-turn being an act of desperation by calling Roberto Mancini’s decision to select Carlos Tevez exactly the same thing.
The United boss also warned that he had “plenty of ammunition” for the mind games that lie ahead over the pivotal final few weeks of the season.
Yet Vieira risked antagonising Ferguson even more on Wednesday by arguing the Red Devils are one of the ‘big clubs’ who benefit from refereeing decisions, like the one at Old Trafford on Monday when Fulham were denied a last-gasp penalty that could have allowed the Cottagers to grab a shock point.
Although Vieira was clearly unhappy at how his views were reported, the France midfielder still said them, leaving Ferguson slightly perplexed as to City’s intentions.
“I’m trying to analyse that,” said Ferguson. “I am not sure. I mean, he’s more or less saying all the referees have been wrong this season and, being an official, you are not supposed to discuss referees.”
Although he ended his career with the Blues, it is Arsenal with whom Vieira is most synonymous, and in particular his midfield duels with Roy Keane.
“We can bring Keane back if he wants and make it interesting,” said Ferguson.
“Apparently he’s retracted it a bit but it’s interesting. The thing is, from the referee [Michael Oliver]’s position, I can see why he didn’t give a penalty when Danny Murphy was brought down.”
Vieira’s additional point was that City “deserved” to win the title because they had played the best football. To a point, it is an assessment Ferguson accepts, apart from the rather fundamental point that what has happened in the past is largely irrelevant given it is his side that presently has a three-point advantage.
“They were playing great football in the first half of the season,” said Ferguson.
“Everyone recognised that and we felt the brunt of it too when they beat us 6-1 here. But a season lasts for a bit longer than three months.”
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