LONDON: Arsenal were angered when labelled arrogant by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson during the Premiership season and on Wednesday Gunners captain Patrick Vieira added to the strained relations between the two sides by declaring the newly crowned champions had played ’rubbish’ football.
The French international midfielder’s comments echo those of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who claimed his side were the best in the championship despite letting an eight-point lead turn into such a deficit that they surrendered their title with two matches remaining.
However, it didn’t deter Vieira, who will turn 27 in June, from telling the Daily Mirror that from what he had seen of United, they won the title by playing ’rubbish football’ with a star turn from one individual or another.
Despite winning two domestic doubles under Wenger, Arsenal are still behind United in terms of trophies with the latter having claimed eight titles in 11 years and the holy grail of the Champions League in 1999 – a trophy that Arsenal have never threatened to win.
“I have seen Manchester United so many times on television this season and when I was watching they just did not play well,” Vieira told the Mirror.
“They were playing really poor football – really rubbish – but United have this or that player who comes up with a trick, they score a goal and then they win one-nil or two-nil.
“I think that was the difference this season. Arsenal are the better team. In fact, there is no doubt that we are the best football team in England.
“I tell you, Arsenal play fantastic football, but what has been shown is that playing fantastic football is not enough.”
Vieira, who says he is ready to commit to Arsenal with an extended contract but only if the squad is strengthened, did concede that United had been able to knuckle down and win games which became wars of attrition.
“The fighting spirit on the pitch now, compared to the team of my first two seasons at Highbury, is completely different. It is less,” he said.
“United have more hunger than we do. As a team they are much more experienced than us, but they have more players who have that vital hunger.
“Also, Arsenal are completely different from them. We need a good team performance to win a game, but they have so many players who win games by themselves.”
Vieira, whose absence because of injury from the final run-in left a huge gap in Arsenal’s midfield, also conceded that he and the other players should take the blame for letting the title drift away.
“The thing is that we are good enough to compete with and beat Manchester United,” he said.
“So if we do not win the title it is my fault, it is the fault of all of us as Arsenal players.
“Sometimes we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and say that we did not perform – that we did not give our best. It is too easy to say that we were not good enough, because that is not true. We were.” – AFP