Justin Timberlake has been forced defend his comments about One Direction after facing a fierce backlash from fans.

The Mirrors singer provoked controversy when he boasted that his former boyband N Sync are better than British group One Direction.

"I'll be willing to say that we're better than them [One Direction] but I'm not laying down any gauntlet," he told Power 105.1's Breakfast Club after reuniting with N Sync at the MTV VMAs.

"I've seen them a couple of times and I like those guys. It's interesting to see that whole wave come around."

One unimpressed fan said: "Why has it suddenly become cool to hate 1D?"

"Justin is annoying - he thinks he is better than everyone!" another wrote.

Timberlake has downplayed the dig, claiming that he misunderstood the question.

Sharing a link back to a story with his 25 million followers he tweeted: "I thought the question was about a pie-eating contest. #newsworthy."

Timberlake won four awards at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, including the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award for his contribution to music.

His new album, The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2, is scheduled for release on 30 September in the UK and 1 October in the US.