Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has advised club captain Wayne Rooney to adapt to a new role at the club as the likes of Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard did in the twilight of their careers.

 

In his podcast on Sky Sports, Gary Neville said that Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney has a major decision to make about his future as he is going through a transitional phase in his career. The former England international suggested that Rooney might have to adapt to a new role at the club, both in terms of his position on the pitch as well as the frequency of his appearances.

“No player at 22 is the same at 32, 33, 34,” said Neville. “If you look at Paul Scholes, he went from a marauding midfield to a holding midfield player, Steven Gerrard the same, Giggs from a flying winger to a central midfield player.

“Rooney’s going through that period now. I think potentially there will be a little bit of relief for him, in the sense of the scrutiny around him in the last week.

“It’s how Wayne Rooney reacts to it. There will come a point where he will have to make that decision of either playing every week or coming to that point in his career where he may come out of the team one week, then go back in and adapt to that type of position.”

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United prepares for warm up as he is dropped to the becnch for the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on September 24, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Wayne Rooney of Manchester United prepares for warm up as he is dropped to the becnch for the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on September 24, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Since the Community Shield match in August, Rooney has been criticised for slowing down Manchester United’s attack. Instead of feeding the ball quickly to Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front and acting as the conduit between the midfield and the big Swede, the United captain is struggling to keep his footing and is often losing possession due to his poor first touch.

With Rooney in the side, Jose Mourinho’s side succumbed to three straight defeats in the span of eight days. The Portuguese manager was heavily criticised for persisting with the England captain.

In Saturday’s game against Leicester City, Mourinho finally decided to leave out his captain and the difference in United’s style of play was palpable. The Reds began to play at a higher tempo and with an added sense of urgency. All of their creative players were constantly on the move and it seemed like a masterpiece of perpetual motion on a bright sunny evening at Old Trafford.

Following the match, Mourinho was quoted by The Sun as saying that Rooney was rested for the mid-week Europa League tie against Zorya, but the explanation seems far from convincing. While the 30-year-old is almost guaranteed to start in the game on Thursday, his position in the starting lineup for the game against Stoke City remains tenuous at best.

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