Updated: Wednesday, 20th November 2019 @ 5:06pm

Gary Neville: Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is a lean, mean fighting machine to be scared of

Gary Neville: Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is a lean, mean fighting machine to be scared of

By Dean Wilkins

A severe gash to the thigh and a month of the injury list was a blessing in disguise for Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney according to Gary Neville.

The former Red, now England coach, has hailed the striker for watching the carbs and slimming down after a sluggish season opener at Everton – making him a lean mean fighting machine.

And although the 26-year-old is yet to get off the mark with his club this season, he did score a brace against San Marino on Friday and moved up to fifth in the country’s all-time scorers list.

"Rooney is best when he plays like the street kid, when he fights for every ball he loves playing football – he wants to take every free-kick, every throw-in, tackles, heads, fights like he has the passion to win," for ex-United and England fullback told BBC 5 live.

"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."

Rooney’s England strike partner Danny Welbeck is also yet to get off the mark with his club this season but netted too for his country and the youngster is beginning to challenge Rooney for a place upfront.

And with Robin van Persie racking up his United goal tally with impressive games against Southampton, Liverpool and CFR Cluj, Rooney is no longer guaranteed a forward start – not that Neville sees that as a problem.

"At the age of 26 you always have to think there's more to come," he added.

"You can't get to the age of 26 and think 'My best years have gone'. 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 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 ten years to continue to become someone who's thought of in the same way as those two players."

England travel to Warsaw tonight to face Poland in their fourth World Cup 2014 qualifying game, having taken seven points from their first threee fixtures.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.