Big clubs receive ref advantage - Man City's Patrick Vieira

By Dan RoanBBC sports news correspondent

Manchester City executive Patrick Vieira believes title rivals Manchester United and other big clubs benefit from key refereeing decisions at home.

"When United play at home, they may get some advantage that some other teams do not get," Vieira told BBC Sport.

Man City later released a statement saying Vieira's comments had been taken out of context.external-link

Vieira, a World Cup winner with France in 1998, was speaking at the Soccerex business forum in Manchester to promote the Football Against Hunger campaign.

"I think when you go to United, Madrid, Barcelona, or Milan, when the referees referee these kind of games, it's always difficult to go against these kind of teams," he said. "This is the way it is.

"It's something the teams who are used to winning get all the time, so we need to win games so we may have this kind of advantage in the future."

With eight games left, City find themselves three points behind United, but Vieira, who took up a post as football development executive at Eastlands after ending his playing career, says his club would be worthy champions.

"This is our moment," said Vieira.

"Since the start of the season, we've been the best team and played the best football. I believe the club deserves it."

However, Vieira, who said he had yet to see the Fulham penalty incident at Old Trafford, also admitted that United are in pole position to claim a second successive title.

"When you are first you have the advantage, they are favourites," said the former Arsenal midfielder and France international.

Vieira claimed recently that United's decision to bring midfielder Paul Scholes out of retirement at the age of 37 was a sign of weakness.

That claim was rejected by Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who accused City of an act of desperation by allowing Carlos Tevez to play for the club again despite going on strike earlier in the season.

Vieira, 35, said: "We're glad Carlos is back. The quality of these kind of players will be really important at this stage of the season. The issue was between him and the club. The players were really pleased to see him back."

Vieira also urged City to remain calm in the run-in with United.

"It's important not to lose focus," said Vieira, who also played for Juventus and Inter Milan before retiring in 2011.

"So many things can happen. People try to build this fire between the clubs. The heat is going to get more and more."

City and United are due to meet at Etihad Stadium on Monday, 30 April.