by Ben Topliss

Time looks to be up for Rafael at Manchester United after he was once again excluded from the squad to face Sunderland on Saturday.

The Brazilian was left out of Man United’s U21s side last week having previously made three consecutive appearances for them and fans were hoping to see him back in the first-team squad at the weekend.

However, despite Louis van Gaal confirming there had been no new injuries, Rafael was nowhere to be seen against the Mackems.

The snub confirmed many fans’ worst fears about the 24-year-old as it looks like he will be leaving in the summer. Louis van Gaal has continued to use a winger and a centre-back in the right-back role instead of bringing Rafael back into the team despite him being fit, which is telling.

Rafael last played for United in their FA Cup clash against Yeovil Town at the start of the year and suffered an injury during the 2-0 win which kept him out of action for a few weeks but since returning to fitness, he has not been able to get back into the first-team squad.

It appears van Gaal simply does not trust the attack-minded Rafael. Often adopting a pragmatic approach this season, the Dutchman has preferred Valencia and McNair at right-back instead.

Without doubt, Rafael is still United’s first choice right-back on paper so his extended exclusion looks altogether very strange. If van Gaal intended to keep him past the summer, surely he’d be integrating Rafael back into the team as soon as possible?

Van Gaal’s pragmatic policy has produced some good results, a solid defensive record and has United in the top four but Rafael’s exclusion is a difficult one to take for United fans. He quickly established himself as a fans’ favourite at Old Trafford after arriving with his twin brother Fabio in 2008 and was arguably one of United’s best players during the 2011/12 season but this latest snub appears to be the final nail in the coffin for Rafael.

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