The 30-year-old, under immense pressure following a woeful performance against Watford on the weekend, was once again castigated by supporters during Man United’s 3-1 win over Northampton in the League Cup.
Rooney’s failure to rectify his poor form, even against a League One side, prompted supporters and pundits into calling for the captain’s omission from the starting XI.
However Neville, speaking after the game, claimed that Rooney is still a fundamental member of Mourinho’s squad.
“He is still an important player in this team,” said Neville.
“You can see with his performance that he is not playing at the top level, his game isn’t flowing and things aren’t coming easily to him but it was important for him to get out there and play another 90 minutes.
“The worry is that he ended up on the right wing again and continually changing positions will eventually affect him.
“Because he wants to be a centre forward or he wants to be a central midfield player but he doesn’t want to be stuck on the right wing.
“At the moment that is having a massive effect on his performance.”
The consensus towards Rooney has quickly shifted from divided to unequivocal in the past few weeks. Years of woeful ineptitude have finally led to an overwhelming wall of noise from fans, ruthlessly lambasting the 30-year-old’s inability to provide anything other than muted sluggishness in the No.10 role.
That said, while his presence on the pitch is unavoidably detrimental, his contribution in the changing room and on the training ground could, perhaps, he useful. He is, after all, a man with a catalogue of experience, and has spent the last fifteen years under the spotlight of various tabloids.
Rooney may not be able to perform at the highest level anymore, but he could have a fundamental role in shepherding those who still can.