Vieira eager to renew rivalry

 

Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira is still hoping to lock horns with Roy Keane in a power battle at Highbury on Wednesday night as he insists that the Manchester United skipper is not a spent force.

Vieira has been rated as a 50-50 chance for the title showdown after injuring both knees at Old Trafford in Arsenal's FA Cup semi-final victory against Sheffield United.

The Manchester United skipper's influence may have increasingly been questioned amid injuries, and especially so after his team's defeat to Real Madrid, when the game largely passed him by.

However, Vieira has insisted: "I enjoy playing against Roy Keane. You always want to play against the best and he is one of the best midfield players.

"He has had some bad injuries and maybe it has taken time for him to come back to his best, but I still think he's one of the best midfielders out there.

"It will be an important battle, but it will be important in every part of the pitch."

While Keane has led United by example, so Vieira has inspired his team as he has grown into the role following the retirement of Tony Adams.

"I think that has made me improve and has made me feel more responsible on the pitch. It has even improved my disciplinary record!" he said.

"I must give credit to the other players though as they have really helped me to do my best. They make the job easy for me.

"I didn't know what to think, really, when I was offered the job. I told the boss that I wanted to talk to a few players about it. They gave me their blessing so I accepted it.

"I think Tony did really well as captain. He was a great example for me.

"But there is no burden on my shoulders. I get great support from the other players, everyone takes their own responsibility so that makes my job easier."

Whether fit or not, part of Vieira's job ahead of Wednesday night's game will be to help rally his side and to focus their minds on the task ahead.

"We are getting to the period where it's really important to get everybody focused about the final sprint," he added.

"That will be one of my jobs to keep everyone focused. I try to talk to the players to make them understand that we need everyone to give 100% for the team.

"You can be really tired and not play like you did at the start of the season. We need something extra now to win these kind of games, but we have that something extra to do that."

Vieira is therefore perfectly happy at Highbury, having insisted this weekend that he had no regrets about having stayed at the club rather than moving to Real Madrid or Old Trafford.

"I've always said that if I have to leave Arsenal then I would go abroad. I wouldn't leave Arsenal to go to another English team," he explained.

"But I am happy here and the mood of the players is really confident. We feel really strong. We know how to win things and that gives us the self-belief."