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Rooney performance gives England hope

Wayne Rooney's Saturday performance bodes well for the England national team.
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Warren Barton

Warren Barton draws on 16 years of professional soccer experience as a studio analyst for FOX Soccer. With more than 350 Barclays Premier League appearances, Barton starred for Wimbledon before rising to prominence with Newcastle United and the England national team. Follow him on Twitter.

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FOX Soccer's lead analyst reflects on the latest news in and around English soccer.

There were fireworks this weekend, but not enough time has been spent talking about what happened on the pitch at Old Trafford on Saturday. All of the talk has been about Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra, but the actual game was outstanding. For United, Wayne Rooney put in a stellar performance, and Paul Scholes was phenomenal. Their efforts were overshadowed by the handshake controversy, but now we should take time to give credit to those exceptional efforts.

Thinking about the England national team ahead of this summer, Rooney's performance has to be especially encouraging. He's caught a great run of form going into the end of the Premier League season, and we could see this level of play carry into Euro 2012. I've never been shy about banging the drum about him being the new captain. He's a great player, and as we saw on Saturday, he can lead on the field. England needs to think about handing him the armband.

Saturday's big news

But we're going to have to talk about Suarez. On Sunday, he came out an apologized for not shaking Patrice Evra's hand at Old Trafford, but this whole incident could have been stopped before it ever happened. His apology showed he now understands the importance of the game and the significance of the problems he caused, but still, the whole Suarez situation could have been dealt with much sooner.

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Now he's come out, issued a statement and apologized, and I'd like to believe Manchester United and Patrice Evra will go forward. Obviously, Evra was willing to do that on Saturday, so hopefully this will be enough for the club to put the whole incident behind them.

Since Saturday, a lot of very serious things have been said on both sides, comments that show the gravity of the incident. There is a reason why everybody is so concerned. Many people have worked very hard for years to get racism out of the game. It's something we take very seriously in England and in the Premier League. I think in Suarez's mind, there was nothing he had to apologize for, but now that he's seen how he's offended people, he's apologized.

Here's hoping he can now move on, as can Liverpool and Manchester United - two great clubs that can be great ambassadors for the English game.

Redknapp's team impresses

There was a lot of speculation surrounding Harry Redknapp this week after Fabio Capello's resignation, and on Saturday, he responded the same way he always had. The 5-0 performance Spurs gave on Saturday against Newcastle showed just how much the players respect the manager and the fans. It's as good as the team's played all year.

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After a difficult 14 days, Redknapp motivated the team to give that five-star performance. Even with all he's been through, he managed to easily get back to what he does best: being a soccer coach. In these dark times, he managed a great performance against my old club, a performance he deserves a lot of credit for crafting.

Title race

The weekend wouldn't be complete without looking to Villa Park. Manchester City moved back top with their 1-0 win over Aston Villa. It may not have been a wonderful display of attacking football, but it was their first win at Villa since 2006, and they kept another clean sheet, their 11th of the year.

The result was particularly important considering how Manchester United played on Saturday, temporarily taking the lead from them. That's why it was a huge three points for City, and thanks to performances like these, we continue to have a great title race.

As always, remember, you can get in touch with me on Twitter, where your questions always play a big part in what we talk about in this space. Follow me at @warrenbarton2.

Former England international Warren Barton is the lead analyst for FOX Soccer Match Day, Goals on Sunday, and UEFA Champions League coverage.

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