Chris Clarke of Manchester United fan site and podcast Can They Score? profiles the fuzzy ball of energy and enthusiasm who brought a Samba beat to United’s right-back position…
Spotted by Les Kershaw at the 2005 Nike Premier Cup in Hong Kong, the da Silva twins have brought a sense of Brazilian brilliance to United’s defence over the past five years. After signing from Fluminise the “two little whippets” have excelled in the first team since making the big move from Brazil.
Rafael made his league debut against Newcastle United at the start of the 2008-09 season but he really made his first impressions during his friendly debut against Peterborough; bombing up and down the right wing and drawing comparisons with the likes of Cafu and Roberto Carlos.
Playing without fear or hesitation, Rafael da Silva became an immediate fan favourite with his bubbly personality, infectious energy and attacking intent.
He scored his first goal for the club against Arsenal in a 2-1 defeat in 2008 and has since gone on to score 4 goals in 72 appearances for the Red Devils and setting up many more.
Under the tutelage of Manchester United legend, Gary Neville, he quickly adapted to English football and showed great ability. However, despite the talent, his sometimes petulant attitude got him in trouble at the start of his career.
Most notably, it resulted in a red card, for two yellow card offences, in the Champions League quarterfinal against Bayern Munich in 2008. Despite a similar issue against Spurs in 2011, Sir Alex has always stood by the young Manchester United right-back and commended him for his performance on both occasions.
Since then Rafael has signed a new contract which will keep him at Old Trafford until the end of the 2015/16 season and, at 23 years of age he is rivalled only by Pablo Zabaleta as the best right-back in the Premier League.
With his relentlessly energy, tackling ability, aerial improvement and match intelligence, Rafael is an accomplished full back who will hopefully go on to play for United for as long as Gary Neville did before him.
However, the Olympic final showed that his concentration could still be an issue (when he was caught out in the early stages as Mexico took the lead) and he since lost his place in the national squad.
A harsh decision based on current form but he is bound to regain his place before Brazil 2014 if he continues to impress, having finally made the #2 shirt his own at Old Trafford.
This piece was written before the start of this season as a contribution towards the Samba Series rather than a comment on Rafael’s recent form at Manchester United.