Defiant Manchester United legend Gary Neville leaps to defence of Wayne Rooney

Manchester United legend Gary Neville has leapt to the defence of Wayne Rooney in wake of recent criticism of the Red Devils captain.

Rooney became England's all-time leading scorer last week when he hammered in a second-half penalty in the Three Lions' 2-0 win over Switzerland at Wembley - with the United skipper now top of the tree with 50 strikes for his country.

However, the England captain has come in for criticism from some quarters for his lack of goals in major tournaments, particularly the World Cup - with Rooney having just one goal to his name, despite playing in the planet's biggest competition three times.

Rooney's goal against the Swiss moved him above United legend Sir Bobby Charlton, and Neville was quick to talk up the achievement of his former teammate while in the studio for Sky Sports' Monday Night Football coverage of West Ham United v Newcastle United on September 14.

Neville said that it was unfair to expect Rooney to still be the same type of player he was who burst onto the scene in ferocious style with Everton and United between 2002-2004.

The former England right back told Sky Sports: “It’s a brilliant achievement. There are great goal scorers [for England], the likes of Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, Michael Owen over the past 20 to 25 years and for him to do it is a wonderful, wonderful achievement.

“He’s taken a bit of criticism this season, but what do people expect? Do you know any 29 or 30-year-old player that’s the same as they were when they were 16 or 17? Because I don’t, it’s impossible."

Neville, who works with Rooney at international level as part of Roy Hodgson's coaching staff, was also critical of a mentality that he feels sees players written off too soon at the top of the English game.

“We let ourselves down in the reporting of these players," he added. "The likes of Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry recently, whereby we say that they aren’t what they were. Of course, but that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute.

“Rooney has always delivered in our time and I have to say that he deserves the record for longevity and keeping going over the past 14 years or so. His professionalism is second to none.”

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