Rafael has been one of Manchester United’s most outstanding performers this season with the full-back finally showing what he is capable of on a consistent basis.
But in the first half against Real Madrid, Rafael had a torrid time of it as Ronaldo, Ozil and Coentrao tormented him and exposed some rash play from the Brazilian that culminated in a silly yellow card for a foul on Benzema.
Despite walking a tightrope on a booking, Rafael put in a much improved second half performance and the 22-year-old said that a half-time pep talk with Ferguson helped him turn it around.
Speaking to Globo Esporte: “(Sir Alex) Ferguson talked to me at half-time because I was leaving some space behind me. I was a little anxious because I didn’t feel that I was playing well, but I did improve a lot after the break.
“We now have the advantage. It’s like it is still goalless and we have the home leg to come, but I still think we could have won the game. We now have a great chance of advancing to the next round.”
It might not have been his best performance but it was a sign of how much he has progressed in the last 12 months. The old Rafael would have been a liability in the second half given his poor first 45 minutes but instead of letting it get to his head, he composed himself and didn’t let it affect him.
The longer the season goes on, the better Rafael seems to be getting. Last week, his man-of-the-match winning performance against Everton was outstanding and Gary Neville rightly praised him.
If he can keep his standards up and maintain consistency, he isn’t far away from a call-up to the Brazilian national squad and it is something he is eager to achieve.
“Of course my goal is to play for the national team again, especially because I am a starter for Manchester United,” he continued.
“I wasn’t called up for the last international (against England) but if I keep playing well, my time will come.”