Gary Neville has been impressed by the leaner, meaner Wayne Rooney that has emerged since the thigh injury he obtained at the start of the season, and has challenged the striker to continue evolving in order to be held in the same esteem as United legends like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.
Rooney was clearly short of match fitness in the season opener against Everton back in August, and found himself on the bench against Fulham in the next game. It was in his late cameo against the Cottagers that he picked up a nasty gash on his thigh that saw him miss nearly a month of action, but when he did return he looked like a man on a mission.
The threat of Robin Van Persie appears to have spurred the England forward on and Neville believes that Rooney facing the challenge head on has seen him take his game to a new level:
“The last couple of weeks, coming back from injury, I’ve seen a lean, fit, hungry Rooney.
“He looks like he is up for the next challenge in his career, to maintain his position at Manchester United.
“At the age of 26 you always have to think there’s more to come. You can’t get to the age of 26 and think ‘My best years have gone’.”
As much of a challenge as RVP provides, Neville believes that the biggest challenge Rooney should face should be from himself. And if he is able to face this challenge head on then he may see himself in the same class as some recent United legends:
“He has to challenge himself.
“He has great examples of players who have continued to do that in Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.
“Giggs has gone from a flying, out-and-out left-winger to someone who now plays off the front, inside-left and central midfield.
“Scholes was a goal-scoring midfielder, off-the-front number player when he started playing as a 16-year-old. Now he’s a holding midfielder who controls the game.
“Rooney is still a centre-forward, but he’ll adapt over this next 10 years to continue to become someone who’s thought of in the same way as those two players.”