When Manchester United eased their way to their 20th English league title little under two years ago, there were a few players who really excelled throughout the season.
One of those was Rafael. He finally shook off the ‘liability’ tag and was arguably the best right-back in the league. His attacking qualities had been vindicated previously but it was his rashness in defence which had always let him down. Not that year. The brazen Brazilian transformed himself into the composed, collected all-round full-back fans hoped he could be.
However, like many, he suffered under David Moyes and it now appears the popular Brazilian may well depart Old Trafford quietly in the summer after a prolonged spell playing in the U21s team. Despite being fit, Rafael was nowhere near United’s squad to face Swansea and that in itself is indicative of his current situation at the club.
The 5-3 defeat to Leicester to September seemed to haunt Louis van Gaal in more ways than one. In that game, the pendulum swung after Rafael was judged to have fouled Leicester’s player in the box which they duly converted. It was a dive but the fact remains it was a game changing moment. Ever since, Rafael has been in and out of the side and a succession of injuries hasn’t helped his cause.
Antonio Valencia has been preferred at right-back and despite a brief return against Yeovil in January, Rafael is struggling to even make the bench. With Patrick McNair also starting at right-back against Swansea ahead of Rafael, it doesn’t bode well for his future at Man United.
Rafael’s boisterous and full-blooded approach has endeared him to Man United fans ever since he joined with his twin brother Fabio back in 2008 but he embodies the biggest problem with United’s defence this season – reliability. Rafael simply can’t be relied upon purely for the fact his injuries are so frequent.
Van Gaal putting a winger and a 19-year-old centre-back ahead of Rafael at right-back despite being fit seems to be telling and with the summer fast approaching, there’s every chance Rafael could be on his way out of Old Trafford.