NEW YORK – It’s been a few years since Patrick Vieira could call Zlatan Ibrahimovic a teammate, but the two remain close, chatting from time to time.
That was the case Thursday after news broke that Ibrahimovic, who played with Vieira at Inter Milan and Juventus, had signed to play with Manchester United.
“I spoke with him this morning. He decided to go to United and he believed that was the best decision for him,” New York City FC's coach said. “I wish him good luck, all the best and of course I will be following him.”
The addition of the 34-year-old Swede – who was also linked with the LA Galaxy in recent months – is the latest move in what has been a very busy offseason in Manchester, which saw both City and United bolster their lineups and add world-renowned coaches in Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho.
“I think that’s fantastic, because look at the two managers in Manchester – look at Ibrahimovic, [Sergio] Aguero on one side, [David] Silva, [Wayne] Rooney,” Vieira said. “I think Manchester is the capital of football.”
As is the case in the northwest of England, there is a battle of red and blue in New York with this year’s second edition of the #NYDerby taking place Sunday at Yankee Stadium (12 pm ET, ESPN | TICKETS).
For Vieira, there is no great difference in this neophyte derby from deep-rooted battles for Manchester, Milan or London.
“I think the derby is still the derby in every city and in every country,” Vieira said. “You play for the city. You have crossing fans knowing each other, sometimes in the family you have the father supporting the reds and the other one is supporting the blues.”
Emotions also run high – sometimes too high – which Vieira said was part of NYCFC’s undoing in a 7-0 drubbing by the Red Bulls last month in the Bronx.
“I think in the first game we played against them, our emotions took over in the game,” Vieira said. “This is where we struggled and let ourselves a little bit down. We have to treat this game the same as the other games because what is important for us is to focus on the game and how we want to play.”
Vieira also said he believes his team is better suited to face the Red Bulls this time around, because NYCFC didn’t play and travel in the midweek ahead of the second of three meetings between the budding rivals.
“I think when we played them the first game, what was really difficult for us was that we came out from a really difficult week,” Vieira said. “This week, we have all the time we need to really prepare for this game. Sunday we will be ready. We will be ready physically, we will be ready mentally and it will completely be a different game.”