Neville attacks national imbalance over Rooney

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The Independent Football

As the classic barrack-room lawyer, Gary Neville is used to making pronouncements. And the Manchester United captain is understandably keen to share his views on the dark clouds of doubt that are presently hanging over his team-mate for club and country, Wayne Rooney.

Until the last couple of games, Rooney had laboured to match his own high standards. But Neville has mounted a fierce defence.

"The problem with this country is you are not allowed an off-patch," Neville told "Wayne played four football matches in five months. I don't care whether you're one of the best young players in the world, you don't not play for five months and then come back and play at your highest level of performance."

Rooney is also a victim of Britain's "set 'em up and knock 'em down syndrome", Neville maintains. "We have a fascination with picking on somebody who is the new star. Everything has to be high or everything has to be low. There's no in-between. Everything is either incredibly negative or incredibly positive."

While Rooney may have been under-achieving, relatively speaking, such an accusation could not be levelled at Paul Scholes, who has come back from months out with an eye problem to rampage once more in United's midfield.

"Paul Scholes is the best player I've ever played with," said Neville. "There's talent in every part of his game."

There was praise, too, for the United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. "He's been somebody who has given me everything I could have asked for from a manager," Neville said. "He always said to us as young players that if you were good enough you would get a chance, and he stood by his word. And all he asks for in return is that you live your life correctly, and you are disciplined."

Neville did not to rock the boat over Steve McClaren's apparent determination to bring David Beckham's international career to a close. He said: "I always want David to have great success, and for me to play with him and my brother and Nicky Butt and Scholes and Ryan Giggs has been one of the great stories of my life ... but ultimately you're in the hands of the manager, and that's something as a player you always respect."

United's midfielder Ritchie Jones yesterday joined the Championship side Colchester on a month's loan.

l Newcastle midfielder Kieron Dyer will be out for at least two weeks after a training ground accident yesterday when he damaged his eye. "Kieron took a knock to his left eye in what can only be described as a freak accident," manager Glenn Roeder said.