Time is of the essence for Wayne Rooney to save his Manchester United career.
Following a string of poor performances under Jose Mourinho, the 30-year-old was dropped against Leicester City last weekend and his teammates appear to benefit from his absence.
Indeed, United secured an impressive 4-1 victory over the Premier League champions having shown a hunger and level of energy that’s been missing in recent years.
The harsh truth for Rooney is that he’s slowing down; since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure in 2013, he’s made the transition from star striker, to No.10 and now to a central midfielder.
However, despite his dramatic fall from grace in recent years, former player and Stoke City manager Mark Hughes remains convinced that Rooney can yet play an important role for United.
So much so, in fact, that Hughes has tipped Rooney to emulate Ryan Giggs at Old Trafford.
Speaking ahead of United’s clash with Stoke on Sunday, he said: “Look at Ryan Giggs, who burst onto the scene as a flying winger with unbelievable pace.
“As he got older his role changed and the way he played changed.
“The key is that good players can do that and clearly Wayne’s an outstanding player and he’ll have the ability to change and still be an effective player for them.”
Hughes’ logic is sound, but Giggs was a rare breed.
The Welshman defied all odds to play at the highest level until his 40s – an achievement very few former outfield players can lay claim to.
Gary Neville shares the same opinion that Rooney can continue playing for United into his 30s but claims his former teammate might have to settle for a defensive midfield role to save his career.
“This is a transition into a new phase of his career, where he’s potentially got to play a different way,” he said on Sky Sports, per The Sun.
“No player at 22 is the same at 32, 33, 34.
“If you look at Paul Scholes, he went from a marauding midfielder to a holding midfield player, Steven Gerrard the same, Giggs from a flying winger to a central midfield player.”
Fail to make the transition into a defensive midfielder and Neville believes Rooney might face being used as a rotation player.
He added: “There will come a point where he will have to make that decision of either playing every week or coming to that point in his career where he may come out of the team one week, then go back in and adapt to that type of position.”