By Amir Mir

Mark Lawrenson believes Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney’s early breakthrough is the reason for his recent decline, as he compared him with former Liverpool star Michael Owen.

Both Rooney and Owen broke onto the professional circuit as teenagers on Merseyside for Everton and Liverpool respectively.

Rooney, 30, famously scored a stunning long-range effort against Arsenal as a 16-year-old, while Owen scored a brilliant solo effort against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup as an 18-year-old.

The United forward has been dropped to the bench for the last four fixtures by club manager Jose Mourinho, while also losing his starting place for the national side in the recent World Cup qualifiers.

Former Reds defender Lawrenson provided an interesting insight into why he believes England’s all-time leading goalscorer is in decline.

“Basically, when your legs go, your legs go,” said Lawrenson, as quoted by the Express. “He is still a very, very talented player but if you can’t get around the pitch you’ve got to find a position where you want to play.

“But he’s had an unbelievable career. Sometimes, it’s a bit like Michael Owen.

“Michael Owen burst on to the scene when he was really young, as did Wayne Rooney, he was 16 when he scored that wonder goal against Arsenal. Maybe that’s just your career.

“For him, I think the reason why he’s coming to the end early is because he was a beast of a man when he was 16, as he is now. That’s just the way it is.”

Striker Owen began his career with Liverpool in 1997, scoring 147 goals in 276 appearances, before a transfer to La Liga giants Real Madrid.

The England international was not able to replicate the same form when he left Merseyside, scoring 66 goals in 190 appearances for Real Madrid, Newcastle, Manchester United and Stoke.

But the 40-goal international striker did lift the Premier League trophy with United in the 2010/11 season, before retiring in 2013 at the age of 33.

Five-time Premier League winner Rooney has scored 248 goals in 536 appearances for United, since his transfer from Everton as a teenager, but has only managed one goal this campaign.

In other Liverpool team news, Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson believes Jurgen Klopp should select this Merseyside ace for the West Brom clash.