Ferguson heaps praise on Rooney in bid to build bridges

• Manchester United striker 'has got his energy back'
• Rooney's desire to leave followed rift with Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson has lavished praise on Wayne Rooney in an apparent attempt to rebuild relations with the striker and convince him he can enjoy a long-term future at Manchester United.

Rooney's desire to leave this summer followed a breakdown with Ferguson, who stepped aside as manager at the end of last season but remains a club director and ambassador.

Rooney was aggrieved at Ferguson for dropping him for a key Champions League match against Real Madrid, using him out of his favoured position and suggesting he had made an official transfer request, which the club accept was not the case.

Ferguson's remark on Thursday that Rooney is back to his best will be seen as a push to repair that damage and strengthen his successor David Moyes's attempt to ensure the England international does not repeat efforts to force a transfer.

A summer move to Chelsea was blocked by the club and the player declined the opportunity to say he was happy at United after scoring two goals against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Ferguson, speaking about Rooney for the first time since he ended his long stint as manager, told MUTV of Rooney's contribution against Leverkusen: "Wayne's performance was fantastic, I was pleased to see that. He's got his energy back – the determination, his purpose to attack players, was all very encouraging to me. Being a director, I'm delighted to see that; he's back to what we always remember."

Rooney's contract runs to the end of next season and United are expected to offer the 27-year-old a new deal over the coming months if they continue to be impressed by his attitude after the summer problems.

Ferguson said Rooney's partnership with Robin van Persie, who also scored against Leverkusen, was highly valuable to the club. "We will have a fantastic chance [of success] because in Van Persie and Rooney, you have forwards who can win you games," he said.

Ferguson's apparent move for peace was echoed by another from across the city before Sunday's Manchester derby, with City's goalkeeper Joe Hart appealing for calm following incidents that marred last season's corresponding fixture in December which included Rio Ferdinand being struck by a coin and a home fan invading the pitch.

Ferdinand was hit as he celebrated Manchester United's late winner and Hart had to intercept the supporter who ran on to the Etihad Stadium pitch in an attempt to reach the central defender.

"There were incidents last year which no one wants to see repeated," said Hart. "The eyes of the world will be on this game as usual and I'm confident our supporters will do the club proud. Our fans are the best in the world and we want you to show your passion for the club, but in the right way."

In the wake of last year's events nine people were charged and Greater Manchester police have heightened their normal security procedures by instigating patrols to make sure no unsavoury graffiti can be daubed near the stadium after inflammatory messages were found in recent seasons.

Some of this cited the Munich air disaster of 1958, in which eight United players died, while other instances featured abuse directed at Marc-Vivien Foé, the former City midfielder who died while playing for Cameroon in 2003.

On Sunday sniffer dogs will be deployed to search out flares, after some were thrown last year, and there is also a move to try to prevent illegal substances being taken at the game. Officers will be issued with protective eyewear after violence broke out last December, with supporters also being filmed in the wake of goals or any other pivotal incidents to monitor behaviour.

On the concourses used solely by United fans on Sunday DVDs of last season's triumphant title challenge will be shown rather than images of goals scored by City players to try to maintain an acceptable atmosphere.

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