Gary Neville says Wayne Rooney still has plenty to offer Manchester United, even if he is no longer an undisputed starter.
The England captain has been in and out of the team since the arrival of Jose Mourinho as manager and has been heavily linked with a move away from Old Trafford in recent months.
Neville feels the 31-year-old’s changing role is a natural development, though, and has stressed it is now up to Rooney whether he can adapt to his new circumstances.
“It is not the end of Rooney. I just believe he is entering into a different phase of his career where he is not going to play every week, and his contributions are going to be different than they were previously,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“At the moment, the way Rooney fits into the jigsaw is that he plays some games and does not play others. He has arrived at that period in his career where ultimately, that is how it is going to be for him. But that is not a criticism, that is just a happening. That is what happens to all players as they get into their 30s.
“It is a personal choice that United players have had to decide previously; are they happy with those 25-30 games a season, or do they want to get out and play every week? That is something Rooney has to decide over the next six, 12 months or whatever that will be. It is not a choice Manchester United can make, as long as he has a contract. It is his choice.
“But you have got to remember, he has only been out of the team for four weeks. He will still be in the mindset of fighting to get back into the team and playing every game. His performances have not been up to his level for the past eight to 12 months. Mourinho has left him out in the past months, he has put other players in, and it is for Rooney to fight his way back into the team.”
Rooney has netted twice in 15 appearances in all competitions for United this term.