Xavi believes Manchester United need to replace Wayne Rooney up front – but he reckons the England captain can play on in a deeper role.
Rooney turned 30 last weekend and has come in for regular criticism over his performances this season, with statistics showing he lost the ball more than any other United outfielder against Manchester City at the weekend despite having the least touches.
It has led to calls that Anthony Martial, who has already scored five goals since his deadline-day move from Monaco, should be moved into the central striker’s position having been used out on the left wing in recent weeks.
Xavi agrees, but the Al Sadd star believes Rooney has the intelligence to adapt to a deeper-lying role.
“Personally I think Rooney still has much to offer, but maybe it’s time for him to adapt,” said the Barcelona legend.
“You get to an age and you can’t play the game you once used to, you can’t cover the ground you used to.
“But intelligent players adapt and there’s no doubting Rooney has a very good footballing brain.
“Maybe it’s time for a new striker at Manchester United, who can run for 90 minutes, but Rooney would be very dangerous in a deeper role.
“He has the vision and the passing range to play that role very well.
“If he can adapt, there’s no reason why he can’t play at the top level for another five or six seasons.
“But as a player you must admit to yourself your body is changing and can’t do what it used to be able to do.”
Xavi played under Louis Van Gaal at Barca and has warned Rooney that reputation alone will not keep him in the United team forever.
“Wayne Rooney is a player I have admired for a long time,” added Xavi. “He is an extraordinary player with extraordinary capabilities.
“Van Gaal does not respect names though. It doesn’t matter if you are the best player in the world, if he wants to drop you from the team, then he will drop you from the team.
“I respect and like Van Gaal because he is honest and direct, and I like to deal with people like that, but it can be hard to listen to his harsh criticism at times. But if you do, it will ultimately improve you.”
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