Where do Rafael and Man United go from here?

The news that Manchester United youngster Fabio Da Silva could join Sporting Lisbon on loan is a great opportunity for the young Brazilian, who has struggled for first team opportunities at Old Trafford due to the presence of Patrice Evra at the left back position. Fabio’s imminent loan move raises the question about his brother: would a loan move benefit Rafael as well?

Don’t get me wrong, Rafael is a special talent and has the potential to be a world class player in the next few years. To be able to break into the United team at 19 and be picked for the big European games at his age is a testament to how good the Brazilian youngster is. Quick, strong, energetic and a player who loves to get forward, Rafael is still raw and would definitely benefit from regular first team football and playing week in, week out.

This season, Rafael has played in 7 Premiership games and 14 in all competitions. The Brazilian has had his chances mainly because of injuries ad the lack of quality right backs at United. John O’Shea has missed a big chunk of the season through injury, Wes Brown is currently on the sidelines and Gary Neville is a shadow of his former self, and despite being a bit of a liability at the moment, Neville is often preferred to Rafael in defence.

The main area that Rafael needs to improve is his defending. A big deal was made when the youngster was exposed by the brilliance of Ronaldinho in United’s Champions League tie with AC Milan at the San Siro. But being torn apart by Ronaldinho is not a terrible thing; he was the best player in the world a few years ago and can give any defender a hard time. In the Milan game, even though Ronaldinho beat him a few times, Rafael had the pace and the eagerness to get back and try and stop the Brazilian attacker. Sir Alex Ferguson said after that game:

“He has to learn and, against Ronaldinho, he will have quickly discovered that this is the real world.

He made some mistakes, but he won’t make them next season. He will eradicate those mistakes because the boy is an outstanding talent.”

Last Wednesday’s game against Bayern highlighted the good and bad sides to Rafael. The youngster was terrific in the first half, getting forward on every occasion and completely subduing Franck Ribery so that the Frenchman was anonymous in the first half. But Rafael’s sending off for two bookable offences arguably cost United the game and could have easily been avoided. Both bookings were for rash challenges and while I believe the second booking was unfair on Rafael, they did highlight his immaturity and petulance. Rafael was clearly devastated by his sending off in such a crucial game and it highlights that inexperience was the key to United’s exit from the Champions League.

Former United full back Viv Anderson has spoke about Rafael’s sending off and believes that he can become a great player for the club. He said:

“He is a tough little lad and is very good going forward. He has to learn positional sense, but that comes with playing.

The more times he plays alongside the likes of Rio and Vidic, or in front of Van der Sar, the more he will listen and learn. He is 19.

“But in another two years’ time he will be the finished article and he will be a top player.”

I have to agree with Anderson. Rafael is still raw and inexperienced at the moment but in two years he will be an excellent player. He just needs regular first team football to further develop his game. With the likes of Neville, O’Shea and Brown also competing for the right back position next season, there is no guarantee that Fergie will play Rafael every week and may opt for experience over ability. That is why a loan move may be the best option for Rafael, even if it is until January. It would allow the Brazilian to get more experience, resolve his flaws and ultimately become a better player. What do you think – should Rafael stay and fight for his place or would he be better served going out on loan?

Follow Tom Jinks on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tomjinks

 


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