During the 2009/10 season Rafael Pereira da Silva established himself as a future (and perhaps even current) Manchester United right back. Regular readers of my match discussion articles will know the right back spot has been a constant worry of mine. Mainly due to defensive injuries last season United lacked a permanent right back. Right back was a position which I felt required reinforcing during the summer, not now however with the emergence of Rafael.
Rafael was born in Petropolis and represented Fluminense (in Brazil) at youth level. Rafael came to the attention of United during the summer of 2005 while playing for the Brazilian club in a youth tournament in Hong Kong.
A deal was agreed between United and Fluminense in February 2007, but he was unable to play in matches until he turned 18 in July 2008. Rafael made his first appearance for United in a friendly against Peterborough later that year.
Due to already featuring in big games I was undecided whether Rafael should be classed as a future prospect. I feel however Gary Neville will begin the season as first choice right back but this may change as the season progresses with Rafael leapfrogging Neville.
With any young player we see silly errors and inconsistent performances and Rafael is no different. Perhaps unfortunately when Rafael is mentioned the first thought that springs to mind is the sending off against Bayern Munich and the defensive error against Tottenham Hotspur.
Against Bayern, Rafael was superb for the sixty or so minutes he was on the pitch, arguably United’s best player. He gave Ribery (a player with a supposed transfer fee of £60million) a torrid time; the young Brazilian was in the Frenchman’s face from the first minute not allowing Ribery to settle on the ball. The sending off was perhaps soft but fair in my opinion. Rafael can’t petulantly kick opposition players and he dragged Ribery as the Bayern man had acres of space to run into.
The game against Spurs was Rafael’s first start since the sending off against Bayern. Overall, Rafael had a decent game and was a constant threat in attacking situations. However, his performance is likely to be remembered for the goal conceded. Would be fair to state Rafael was at fault for failing to remain on the goal line which allowed Ledley King’s header sneak in at the back post. Later, when Nani scored a sublime chip Rafael’s reaction was special – true emotion and passion! Rafael was the most relieved man in Old Trafford.
In conclusion Rafael’s overall performance against Bayern and Spurs bodes well for the future. He potentially can be United’s permanent right back for the next 10-15 years. Every player makes mistakes; once the school boy errors are ironed out of his game Rafael will be a top class player. A leading right back in the future? The lad has a great chance.