Patrick Vieira believes the unique nature of the Premier League is in danger of being eroded by over-fussy refereeing.

Vieira produced some of the most memorable Premier League moments and his midfield battles with Roy Keane as the pair slugged it out for Arsenal and Manchester United were legendary.

"The beauty of the English game, especially in the Premier League, is the speed, the passion from the players and the tackling," said the Frenchman, now a Manchester City ambassador. "England is the only country in the world where fans in the stadium applaud the striker who has scored, but also the defender who wins the ball with a tackle."

He added: "Now it looks like you cannot tackle anymore.

"The referees' body has to be really careful to not kill the passion of the game.

"Other players will never accept a fellow professional going to hurt somebody, these kind of players need to punished severely.

"But if these changes to the rules mean there is more of a European pace or style to the Premier League, English fans could get bored and would not come to see the games."

Source: PA