PATRICK VIEIRA jokingly refused to touch a Roy Keane Manchester United shirt – and then admitted: “I was much better than him”.
The legendary Arsenal midfielder, 46, was taking part in BT Sport’s What I Wore at the Crystal Palace training ground – looking back at all the shirts he donned during his incredible career.
He was also shown some old opponent shirts through different eras, including Keane’s United blue away shirt of 1999-2000.
It was a strip worn when the two ex-skippers and two of the biggest rivals in the Premier League era came to blows at a game at Highbury in August 1999.
The Frenchman laughed: “That is why I put my hands in my pockets. I don’t want to handle that shirt.”
He went on to say of his rivalry with Keane: “From the first game I knew straight away that he would be a fight every single game. I loved the way he was on the field. Massive respect.
“He was a leader, the one who was driving the team and the players to compete at that level, challenging the players.
“I admire him as a captain and I knew of course that will be one of the battles to try to win on the pitch.”
Asked if he was better than Keane, Vieira smiled: “Much better. I would say much better, yes.”
Most read in Football
Vieira continued: “They were the team to beat, the best team. If you wanted to win the league you had to be above United. That was the passion, the competitiveness.
“I don’t want to use the word hate, but it was love and hate.”
Arsenal fans couldn’t help but crack a smile, calling the now-Eagles boss a “legend” for his comments.
The United faithful pushed Keane’s case hard, though – pointing to his far superior trophy cabinet.
But ultimately, one thing everyone could agree on was that they don’t make rivalries like this any more.
One tweeted: “One of the biggest rivalries between two players. Says a lot about both of them. Top captains, top players.”
Another said: “Two great leaders and in their pomp. The two best all round midfielders around at the time. Amazing calibre of talent in the EPL at that time.”
A third added: “Greatest rivalry! When football was still football without the crying and diving.”
Vieira made 307 Prem appearances for the Gunners from 1996 to 2005, winning three titles and four FA Cups.
Two of those Prem titles were won at the grounds of their biggest rivals – at Old Trafford ahead of winning the Double in 2002 and at White Hart Lane against Tottenham in 2004 before they became the Invincibles.
Asked which of those victories were sweeter, Vieira explained: “When you think about the best period, winning the title and the Invincibles is fantastic.
“But, there is always a moment that is sweeter than the others. Old Trafford was the rivalry, Keane, Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson.
“To win there is us to tell them we did it to you, player to player.
“But what made White Lane sweet was the fans involved. Our massive rivals and to win it there, we took time to stay on the field to make it special.
“We celebrated with our fans and all of that made it sweet.”
*Watch the latest episode of BT Sport’s What I Wore, and catch up with the whole series, on the BT Sport YouTube channel, Twitter, Facebook and at BTSport.com/WhatIWore.