Gary Neville: Wayne Rooney must adapt and improve to stay at top

England coach challenges striker to reinvent himself and follow examples set by Scholes and Giggs

Gary Neville has challenged Wayne Rooney to reinvent himself as the England striker approaches 10 years in the international game, and a potential conversion into a midfielder for club and country.

Rooney, 26, will start in tonight's World Cup qualifier against Poland in his more customary No 10 position behind the striker - likely to be Jermain Defoe - but Neville said that as the Manchester United player got older he would have to accept that he needs to "improve" in order to face "the next challenge in his career". In an interview with BBC Sport, Neville, one of Roy Hodgson's coaches, said that Rooney could still have his best years in the game ahead of him as he approaches his 27th birthday in eight days' time.

Rooney has been selected by Sir Alex Ferguson to play in midfield against Newcastle United in the Premier League and Cluj in the Champions League this season.

Neville said: "At the age of 26, you always have to think that there's more to come. You can't get to the age of 26 and think 'My best years have gone'. He has now to challenge himself. That's the challenge that always exists when you play for Manchester United and England, at the highest level of football, to keep reinventing yourself. He has got great examples of players who have continued to do that in Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, how they have adapted their games.

"Ryan Giggs has gone from a flying out-and-out left winger to someone who now plays off the front, inside left, central midfield. Paul Scholes was a goalscoring midfielder, an off-the-front No 10 player, when he first started playing as a 16-year-old. Now he's a holding midfield player who controls the game.

"You have to adapt. Wayne 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 that same way as those two players. We need to see Wayne Rooney improve, Wayne Rooney needs to see himself improve and in the last few weeks, coming back from that injury, I've seen a lean, fit, hungry Wayne Rooney.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 

"He looks like he is up for the next challenge in his career where he has got people like Robin Van Persie, Shinji Kagawa, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck around him.

"He has got a huge challenge around him just to maintain his position at Manchester United but he looks like he is really up for it."

Hodgson could make up to six changes to the side that beat San Marino 5-0 on Friday. Kyle Walker did not take part in training at the National Stadium in Warsaw last night and his calf injury means he is likely to be replaced by Glen Johnson, coming back a one-match suspension. The big decision for Hodgson is on which of his lead strikers he selects to play further forward than Rooney in his favoured 4-2-3-1 system.

Defoe and Rooney trained together in attack yesterday and the Tottenham striker is now the marginal favourite to come in ahead of Welbeck, despite the Manchester United player having scored twice against San Marino.

It is anticipated that Hodgson will tell his players the team this lunchtime but one of the certainties is Steven Gerrard, the England captain who returns after suspension. He will show his usual high level of pride in representing his country and yesterday rejected Patrick Vieira's claim that English players do not want to play for the national team.

Gerrard said: "It surprised me [the comment]. The impression I get, from young players at Liverpool, is that they are desperate to get into this set-up. That is what I notice. You can see in their faces that, when they are left out, it has disappointed them. It did not annoy me because I don't really care what Patrick Vieira says. The young players are hungry."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...