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Apr 20, 2011

Vieira defends Balotelli

Patrick Vieira has come out in defence of striker Mario Balotelli after his latest antics almost caused a brawl at the end of the Manchester derby at Wembley.

• Tevez in fitness race
• Johnson: Europa limbo

Balotelli celebrated in front of the Manchester United fans after City had booked a place in the FA Cup final courtesy of Yaya Toure's goal. That infuriated the United's players, most notably Rio Ferdinand, but Vieira feels the striker is misunderstood.

Balotelli has constantly courted controversy since joining City last summer, and Vieira, who was the player's mentor at Inter, thinks people should cut the 20-year-old some slack.

"That's part of his personality, that's Balotelli's charm," Vieira told the Daily Mirror. "I don't think it was a case of provocation - I just think he got carried away. There was more pressure on City's shoulders than United's. As a club and as a team, United are more used to controlling these types of games.

"For us, it was pure joy because the club has been waiting for this for so long. And with all the press expecting United to win easily, it was a big relief. There was some over-excitement, but I think United's players got carried away as well."

Vieira also insisted the club must look to qualify for the Champions League as well as pick up the FA Cup as the season reaches its climax.

"It would be a shame not to win the FA Cup and not to finish in the top four," he said. "We've got six or seven matches left to try and hang in there for that fourth place, and then the icing on the cake would be to win the FA Cup.

"It's magnificent, magnificent. The atmosphere at Wembley was incredible. I hope we win it, we've done the hardest part in knocking out Manchester United, now we're up against probably the most physical team in the league. Even though we're favourites on paper, it will be tough. Any final is hard to win."

Vieira said he is yet to decide on hanging up his boots.

"I don't know [about retirement]," Vieira said. "We haven't got to that stage yet. I'm taking this easy, we will see what happens, but quitting would surely be the best decision for me. It would not trouble me if I ended my playing career. I have experienced everything the football world has to offer.

"I've won things, lost and I've cried. I've experienced everything and if I had to hang up my boots and haven't found this flame with a club that inspires me to keep pushing myself then I will stop. I'm in form to finish the season, but to start again there are lots of little questions you have to ask, lots of things that come into the equation.

"Trying a new adventure in the United States [like Thierry Henry] or elsewhere at 35 doesn't really interest me. It's hard at 35 to keep playing three times a week."

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