Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane has opened up on his rivalry with former Arsenal skipper Patrick Vieira, admitting that the French midfielder was one of his toughest opponents.
The two clubs had a tremendous rivalry in the late 1990s and early 2000s with Arsenal vs United always considered one of the biggest games of the season with the pair frequently challenging for the Premier League title.
In the past number of years both sides have fallen out of title contention and under new managers are in a relative rebuild process but the rivalry between the clubs still remains.
One of the staples of classic Arsenal vs United clashes was always the individual battles between Keane and Vieira in the middle of the park, with the two captains constantly looking to one up each other and gain that all important edge for their team.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football ahead of another clash between both sides, Keane admitted that the games back in his day were always wars and that Vieira was indeed one of his toughest opponents.
“I always felt I was going to war with these boys anyway so I’d be feeling the aches and pains before the match, I wouldn’t mind afterwards, but that’s what you play the game for.
“Patrick would have been (my toughest opponent) at the time. As I said Patrick would challenge you in different ways, he could get around the pitch, he was good with the ball, he was strong, he had a goal in him.”
“I knew I would have to be at my very very best to be on top of Patrick.”
"If I could win my battle with Patrick we had a chance of winning the game."
Roy Keane admits Patrick Vieira was 'probably' his toughest opponent.
— Sky Sports MNF (@SkySportsMNF) September 30, 2019
Keane continued by outlining that he knew if he could win his individual battle with the French midfielder than his United side would have a huge chance of coming away from the game with the all-important three points.
“If you can win your midfield battles it does give you a great chance of winning football matches but there was also a respect towards Patrick because I knew I had to be at my best.
“It was the same with other lads coming through, your Gerrards and you Lampards, you knew you had to be at your best.”
During their rivalry both Keane and Vieira were two of the best midfielders in the top flight, with the Arsenal captain even being linked with a move to United at one stage.
Keane though, in his typical no-nonsense style, explained that had Vieira signed for the Red Devils, he would not have gotten into the starting XI.
“There was talk about Patrick but I don’t think Patrick would have gotten into the United team, he would have had to have been a squad player and I don’t think he would have been satisfied with that but there was talk about him.”