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Rampaging Rafael's stock is on the rise

TEAMtalk guest Ross Dunbar says Rafael da Silva does not hog the headlines but is establishing a strong reputation as a fantastic full-back.

Last Updated: 05/02/13 at 12:10 Post Comment   

Rafael da Silva: Establishing a strong reputation

Rafael da Silva: Establishing a strong reputation

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A decade ago one of the finest Brazilian right-backs of all-time, Cafu, was mulling over a possible move to Manchester United following his success at the FIFA World Cup in the Far East.

His powerful and relentless attacking runs was a relatively unique characteristic in a defender but influenced the modernisation of the position which has become a vital component of attacking play in the current era of the sport. Cafu really was ahead of his time and enjoyed glittering success at Roma and AC Milan, among others.

At the same time at Old Trafford, the Red Devils had their own legend. The number two shirt has collateral associations with the famous 'seven' shirt worn by some of the best-ever Manchester United players. Gary Neville, though, was a United legend for different reasons. His loyalty, determination and winning attitude epitomised that of current manager Sir Alex Ferguson and the position has yet to find someone with the same qualities as Neville.

Closer to Cafu than Neville in his style of play, 22-year-old Rafael da Silva is quietly establishing his reputation as one of the strongest full-backs in Europe. The Brazilian bears the same forward play, pace and impudence in attacking areas - but the steady performances in United's first team have polished his defensive attributes, in particular his positioning which is something that has come from first-team experience.

Rafael joined United, as a 17-year-old, from Brazilian side Fluminense in 2008 along with brother Fabio da Silva. However, the former settled quicker than his sibling and has made the easy transition into the first team, earning a four-year-deal in the summer of 2012. Sir Alex has taken the youngster under his wing and recently expressed his delight at his progress at Old Trafford.

"He is maturing and learning all the time," said the United boss. "Rafael has all the ingredients of a great player. He is blessed with great enthusiasm, skill and speed. He was quite impulsive and tended to over-commit himself. We have gone over it a few times but, bit by bit, it is all coming together."

A plethora of injury problems halted his development in Manchester but by the turn of 2013, the Brazilian full-back had played in more competitive matches for United than last season and just two away from his overall tally in 2010/11. Rafael has made 18 Premier League appearances this season, scoring two goals and creating a further three in matches against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City.

Commonly, matches between the strongest sides in the league can be a tactical battle - but the dynamism of Rafael to venture into attacking positions, executing an overload in wide areas, allowing the likes of Antonio Valencia, Shinji Kagawa and Ashley Young to tuck further inside which provides extra room for the Brazilian right-back, or Patrice Evra, to impact on the game.

United's record against the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City in the Premier League is impressive, winning all of their five toughest matches of the season, thus far.

Rafael's selection highlights the trust and confidence placed in him by Ferguson and the youngster has missed only two minutes of action in these encounters.

A less than familiar name than many of the current first-team squad, Rafael's stable and reliable performances are beginning to catch the eye in a United side who have pulled nine points clear in the Premier League title race.

With new Brazil boss Luis Felipe Scolari keeping an eye on the English game, Rafael is likely to increase his cap haul in the future.

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