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Sir Alex Ferguson praises Wayne Rooney ahead of Manchester Derby

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Speaking out about team matters for the first-time since retiring last May, former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson revealed his delight at the way Wayne Rooney is playing for the Red Devils.

Ahead of Sunday’s crunch Derby with Manchester City (11am ET, watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) Rooney’s sensational form has given David Moyes a major boost.

(MORE – Preview: Manchester City vs. Manchester United)

Sir Alex was delighted to see Rooney amongst the goals in United’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace last weekend, and the 4-2 Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.

“Wayne was fantastic [against Bayer Leverkusen]. I’m pleased to see that,” Ferguson said. “He’s got his energy back, the determination, his purpose to attack. As a director, I’m delighted to see him back to what we always remember him.”

Speaking to United’s TV station, Ferguson is also pleased to see plenty of United’s other attackers chipping in and believes alongside Rooney’s resurgence, United have a great chance to kick on to defend their Premier League title.

“With [Robin] Van Persie and Rooney, there are forwards that can win games,” Ferguson said. “And [Antonio] Valencia’s back to his best.”

So, those are the first words from Ferguson as a director at United and it is quite telling to hear him praise Rooney, despite all of the rumors flying around about a high-profile bust-up between the pair, just prior to Ferguson’s retirement.

(MORE: Will Wayne Rooney become Manchester United’s all-time leading goalscorer?)

And the Scottish manager, who must be finding it hard to stay away from the action after 26 years in charge of United, will be watching on as a spectator during a Manchester Derby for the first-time in almost 30 years. As for his successor Moyes, the 50-year-old Scot has an incredible record against Man City while in charge at Everton. In 22 games against the Citizens, Moyes won 12, drew four and lost just six times.

He will be hoping that fine record against City carries over to his United career.

But back to Rooney, his importance cannot be underestimated, and in his past 25 games for the Red Devils he has scored 13 times and added 12 assists. Only Robin van Persie betters that record and RVP has played 13 games more than the England international. Following the summer-long transfer saga involving Rooney, United’s fans will be pleased to see him back focused on playing for the Old Trafford side and Ferguson is obviously over the moon.

With Sir Alex pleased, Rooney back in form and David Moyes keen to build on his good record against City, all signs are pointing towards a confident Manchester United strolling out of the tunnel at the Etihad on Sunday afternoon.

Over to you, Wayne.

WATCH: USMNT’s Gonzalez nets first for Pachuca, earns exuberant “Gol” call

Marouane Fellaini, ,Omar Gonzalez
AP Photo/Themba Hadebe
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Come for the goal, stay for the “Gol” call.

Or should we say the “Gol. Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Gol” call.

[ MORE: Angry Louis van Gaal rips journalists for “inventing” stories ]

USMNT defender Omar Gonzalez has opened his account for Pachuca with this 88th minute header, and it’s worth it if just for the auditory performance.

Gonzalez also pulls out the high-capacity weapon celebration, though he’s apparently opted to do the version closer to the “Scarface” finale (Spoiler alert).

VIDEO: Premier League Team of the Week – Round 25

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In a week where defenders scored critical goals, it’s no surprise to see a 4-3-3 in the Premier League’s Team of the Week.

Robert Huth‘s brace while blanking Manchester City leads the way for the PL’s top XI from the weekend, while Southampton’s vaunted back line and keeper have two in mix.

[ MORE: Ailing Chelsea, Man Utd showcase obvious deficiencies ]

Liverpool and Arsenal both put offensive forces on the team, while big goals for safety hopefuls Newcastle United and Aston Villa found three players between the two in the XI.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Premier League Team of the Week — Round 25 ARCHIVE ]

Goalkeeper: Fraser Forster (Southampton)

Defenders: Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Robert Huth (Leicester City), Joleon Lescott (Aston Villa)

Midfielders: Aaron Lennon (Everton), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

Forwards: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa)

Premier League Player of the Week — Round 25

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Score one for the Midlands.

In a season for lowlights, Aston Villa captain Gabriel Agbonlahor is celebrating a bit of hope for his beleaguered club after his classy finish gave the 29-year-old his first goal of the season.

[ REACTION: Agbonlahor says Villa now ready to produce great escape ]

It also inspired Villa to consider that eight points off the Premier League safety chase isn’t unrealistic if it can put together some more gritty performances like the 2-0 defeat of Norwich City on Saturday.

Premier League Players of the Week

Week 1: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

Week 2: Romelu Lukaku, Everton

Week 3: Callum Wilson, Bournemouth

Week 4: Bafetimbi Gomis, Swansea City

Week 5: Steven Naismith, Everton

Week 6: Anthony Martial, Manchester United

Week 7: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal

Week 8: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

Week 9: Raheem Sterling, Manchester City

Week 10: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

Week 11: Arouna Kone, Everton

Week 12: Jesse Lingard, Manchester United

Week 15: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

Week 16: Ayoze Perez, Newcastle United

Week 17: Odion Ighalo, Watford

Week 19: Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City

Week 20: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland

Week 21: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland

Week 22: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

Week 23: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur

Week 24: Fraser Forster, Southampton

Week 25: Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa

Napoli fans wear Koulibaly masks to support defender after racial abuse

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Fans of Napoli  during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Carpi FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 7, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.

At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.

A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”

[ VIDEO: Van Gaal rips journalist who questions his Manchester United future ]

Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.