Nice owner and Manchester United supporter Jim Ratcliffe has revealed that he “hated” Patrick Vieira while he was at the peak of his powers as an Arsenal player.
Vieira enjoyed a hugely successful spell with the Gunners between 1996 and 2005, winning three Premier League titles and three FA Cups.
He is widely considered to be one of the finest foreign players to ever grace English football – a reputation underlined by the fact Arsenal have been unable to find an adequate replacement in midfield since his departure.
The Frenchman often saved his best performances for whenever Arsenal came up against United, pitting his wits against Old Trafford enforcer Roy Keane across the middle of the park.
Ratcliffe, who completed a €100m (£88.77m) takeover at Nice earlier this year, has recalled watching Vieira in action during his heyday, labelling the World Cup winner a “b*stard”.
“I like Patrick because he’s interested in young people and he’s a very good young coach. I’ve met him twice before – I hated him!” the British businessman told L’Equipe.
“At Arsenal, he had his duels against Manchester United with Roy Keane … He really was a b*stard, and now I have to be nice to him.”
Vieira was appointed as Nice head coach in June 2018, after a successful spell in charge of MLS outfit New York City FC.
He guided the club to a seventh-place finish in Ligue 1 last term and his side are currently sitting in ninth at the start of the 2019-20 campaign.
Ratcliffe hopes Nice can earn a spot in the Champions League over the next few years, with a solid foundation for future success already in place.
“Nice has a great history, it’s a very old, popular club, and it’s a great place to bring very good kids,” he added.
“We have a new stadium, a fantastic training centre, the French championship is of high quality and produces the best players in the world. There is the opportunity to play the Champions League while in the Premier League, you already have six clubs for four places.”
As a long-time United fan, Ratlicliffe’s ultimate ambition is to come up against the Red Devils in European competition.
“The dream is to beat Manchester, I’d love it,” the 67-year-old continued. “Playing the Champions League would be great for Nice and we can do it smartly, it’s not about throwing money out the window. One hundred million is not very satisfactory.”
Nice are back in Ligue 1 action against French champions Paris Saint Germain on Friday, while United await a huge showdown against Liverpool in the Premier League this Sunday.