“That’s the highest compliment I can pay him.”
Gary Neville played with some of the finest strikers in the modern era over the course of his 19 years in the Manchester United first team. But for the former right-back, Wayne Rooney stands above the rest.
Rooney, who played alongside Neville for seven years, arrived at United as a precocious teenager in 2004.
By the time he left in 2017, to rejoin Everton, he had become United’s all-time leading goalscorer, his trophy cabinet shimmering with five Premier League winners’ medals, a Champions League medal and a host of individual awards.
Neville: Rooney is Man United’s best.
And Neville feels that Rooney – who last week announced his retirement after being appointed Derby manager – was the best striker he ever saw at Old Trafford, a strong statement given the list of names that belong in the conversation.
“For me, he was the best centre-forward I ever saw at Manchester United and ever played with,” Neville told Sky Sports.
‘I have him number one, up front, Cristiano Ronaldo alongside him in every single of the best Manchester United teams that I played alongside.
“That’s the highest compliment I can pay him, because I played with [Eric] Cantona, with [Mark] Hughes, with [Dwight] Yorke, [Andy] Cole, [Teddy] Sheringham, [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer, [Dimitar] Berbatov, [Carlos] Tevez, great strikers from all over the world, not just in England.
“Rooney would be my number one.”
And although he wasn’t name-checked by Neville, Ruud van Nistelrooy is certainly deserving of a mention.
The Dutchman scored 150 goals in 219 appearances for United between 2001 and 2006 and, unlike Rooney, collected a Premier League Golden Boot.
However, Neville argued that Rooney’s all-round game was crucial during his best years at United.
🗣”For me he was the best centre-forward I ever saw at Manchester United and played with”
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) January 18, 2021
“The contribution to the team at all points of every game was unbelievable,” added Neville.
“In and out of possession, in the dressing room, the energy every single morning.
“He was an absolute livewire, street fighter, tough, score goals, assist goals, the best defender, never give in.
“Everything you would want in a footballer he was there, and to me the best striker I played with because he did everything.”