After receiving a huge amount of criticism for his sluggish display during Manchester United's defeat at Everton on the opening weekend of the Premier League, Rooney has benefited massively from the time off he was forced to take when he suffered a badly gashed thigh against Fulham.
Although he has still to get off the mark for his club, Rooney has been outstanding in a midfield role behind Robin van Persie and marked his first competitive game as England captain with two goals in Friday's win over San Marino.
And England coach Neville is delighted with what he has seen.
"Rooney is best when he plays like the street kid; fights for every ball, loves playing football, wants to take every free-kick, every throw-in, tackles, heads, fights like he has the passion to win," Neville told BBC Radio Five Live.
"The last couple of weeks, coming back from injury, I've seen a lean, fit, hungry Rooney.
"He looks like he is up for the next challenge in his career, to maintain his position at Manchester United."
Van Persie's arrival at Old Trafford and Danny Welbeck's impressive form means Rooney can no longer be guaranteed a forward berth.
Not that Neville necessarily believes that is a bad thing after seeing former team-mates Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have managed to prolong their careers by adapting their approach.
"At the age of 26 you always have to think there's more to come," Neville added.
"You can't get to the age of 26 and think 'My best years have gone'. He has to challenge himself.
"He has great examples of players who have continued to do that in Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.
"Giggs has gone from a flying, out-and-out left-winger to someone who now plays off the front, inside-left and central midfield.
"Scholes was a goal-scoring midfielder, off-the-front number player when he started playing as a 16-year-old. Now he's a holding midfielder who controls the game.
"Rooney is still a centre-forward, but he'll adapt over this next 10 years to continue to become someone who's thought of in the same way as those two players."