Crystal Palace are reaping the rewards of Vieira's Man City education

Man City always suspected Patrick Vieira was destined for great things as a manager… now they face his young, attack-minded Crystal Palace team with their former player having now made his mark

  • Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace host Manchester City at Selhurst Park on Monday
  • The Frenchman cut his managerial teeth at City and was tipped as a future boss
  • He has transformed Palace into a better possession, passing and attacking team
  • Vieira has shown faith in young players and is aiming for a top ten finish this term

At Manchester City, they always suspected Patrick Vieira was destined for great things post-retirement. It was just a matter of where he would make his mark.

Vieira spent the final 18 months of his illustrious playing career at the Etihad and they quickly realised he possessed a manner and knowledge of the game that made him somebody they wanted to retain within the City Group.

Brian Marwood, now CFG’s managing director of global football, was instrumental in converting a figure so closely linked to Arsenal into a City man.

Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace side host Premier League leaders Manchester City on Monday

‘He strongly believed I had something to give back to football,’ Vieira said of ‘mentor’ Marwood. ‘We are really close and I love the man. He is a lovely man.’

City created numerous opportunities to help Vieira decide where his future lay.

He did some ambassadorial work, experienced the commercial side of the club and was even involved in recruitment, occasionally being part of City’s charm offensive when they met players and parents, the club aware of the influence someone of his standing could have.

Vieira said: ‘It was the right place at the right time to develop myself and understand what I really wanted next.’

That ultimately proved to be coaching, a world Vieira adapted to far better than many equally-gifted former players.

Vieira managed City’s Elite Development squad before going on to impress at New York City FC and some believed he showed the hallmarks of a future City manager.

Vieira began his coaching career as manager of Manchester City’s Elite Development squad

‘That clarified in my mind that this is the pathway I want to take,’ World Cup winner Vieira said.

‘That period really helped me to understand which kind of philosophy and the manager I want to be. ‘That allowed me to be here today and have a really clear idea about what I want from the players and the style of football I want to play.’

‘Here’ is Crystal Palace where Vieira’s reputation is on the rise again after a spell at Nice that was hampered by external issues beyond his control.

Palace are in the highest position they have occupied at this stage since returning to the Premier League in 2013 and targeting a first top-10 finish since 2015.

Vieira and his well-liked coaches have made Palace a better possession, passing and attacking team. The playing style has been transformed while Vieira has overhauled his squad, lowered the average age and developed a string of exciting youngsters.

After a spell at New York City, the Frenchman spent two and a half years at Ligue 1 outfit Nice

At City, how Vieira conducted himself, his ‘incredible’ communication and people skills, ability to use his experiences in a beneficial way, take players under his wing and also impress on them the need for high standards were among the qualities he is remembered for.

It has been similar at Palace. Team and individual meetings have been a feature, Vieira has been clear and honest in his messaging, strict when required and his lofty expectations have helped generate improvement from his squad and underpinned his work.

The faith Vieira has shown in young players, even when they have hit inevitable bumps, has been welcomed. Good relationships with the likes of talisman Wilfried Zaha have also been established.

Vieira has been described as demanding, in the right way, and he has quickly worked out who needs an arm around the shoulder and who responds better to being challenged.

It was notable that he mentioned more than once how demanding he will be as he attempts to extract further improvement from in-form winger Michael Olise.

Vieira has transformed Crystal Palace into a better possession, passing and attacking team

Vieira has a CV and aura following his glittering playing career that has earned him instant respect though has never let that go to his head.

In his Arsenal pomp he was viewed as one of the more approachable members of Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles for the club’s youngsters as they entered that fiercely competitive environment with an element of trepidation.

Then, as now, how Vieira carried himself did not tally with the expectations of someone with his legendary status. ‘Ego-less’ was one description of Vieira.

That is one of many reasons Vieira has numerous people rooting for him. They include his own community with black managers and coaches remaining so under-represented in the game.

Former Palace defender Alex Dyer, now an experienced coach/manager, remembered being impressed when he was Huddersfield’s No 2 and came up against Vieira and his City EDS side.

Michael Olise is one of the young players at Palace who reflects how Vieira is shaping the side

He said: ‘He’s done a great job at Palace. Changed the culture, you can see that. As a black man you want to see people that look like you and people that look like you doing well. 

‘Usually if you do get a chance at managing and it doesn’t work out it is hard to get another job. He’s had two or three good jobs now and established himself as a manager. When black people get into those positions and do well it proves that it can be done.’

And, when it comes to Vieira, why his former City colleagues had such high hopes.

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