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Time for the Heir apparent to stake his claim!

Siddarth Monday, October 4, 2010
Last week was a mixed bag in terms of results and individual and team performances, while we pulled off a hard fought win in Spain, we were dominated by an excellent Sunderland team for most of the game, but one player stood out both at the Mestella and the Stadium of Light, surprising given that it was his first start in both competitions and his performances spoke for himself. The player is Rafael da Silva.

Rafael had to wait for more than a month before his first start against Scunthorpe, but he was played out of position at LB. His first start of the season at his natural position, Right back, was against Valencia at the imposing Mestella, and also the player he was to ensure remained quiet on the night was Juan Mata, who was in red hot form and so a tough test for the youngster.

The performance against Los Che wasn’t typical Rafael, his attacking forays were limited, but his defending was very good, he worked hard throughout the entire game, he made several vital headers and tackles, he showed that he had matured from last season, the impatience and exuberance to get forward every chance he could was replaced by a more smart player, who knew that his job on the night was to ensure Valencia’s Left wing was nullified and he did exactly that. One of the highlights of the game was Rafael’s last ditch tackle on Roberto Soldado at the edge of the box as the striker seemed to have gotten past him and set to be one on one against Van Der Sar, but Rafael stopped what would have been a golden chance for Soldado. He was my choice for the Man of the Match for the game, given that he had just made his first appearance of the season and he hardly put a foot wrong the entire game!

The same weekend, as United faced Sunderland and the team news trickled in that Rafael was starting again, I was surprised that he wasn’t rested, but Sir Alex was clearly rewarding young Rafael for his exemplary display against Valencia with a start against the Black Cats, overlooking seniors like Wes Brown and Gary Neville. Against Sunderland he clearly had more attacking freedom, and the old Rafael was back, charging forward whenever he could and joining in the attack whenever he could. At the same time Rafa’s defensive improvement was clear to see, he jumped for as many headers as he could, even winning one very important one over Darren Bent and clearing the ball from danger, he was caught out of position just once the entire night, and despite the fact that he played almost 90 minutes of football just about 72 hours ago, his energy levels never dropped.

Rafael’s return to the starting XI might have been inevitable following John O’Shea’s disappointing and shaky displays so far this season, also Gary Neville isn’t at the same level that he once was and Wes Brown seems to be out of favor at the moment. He proved that he was ready for more first team action and the game against Bayern Munich was just an aberration and he seems to have learnt from his experience and just gotten even better.

Only 20, Rafael has a lot to improve and is certainly going to be a world class player and it’s only a matter of time before he’s Brazil’s no.1 Right back too. His potential is clear for everyone to see and with experience he will only get better and we will finally have a worthy successor to Gary Neville.

United’s first clean sheet in the premier league in quite a while seems to have coincided with Rafael’s return, certainly Rio’s return had a part to play in the solid defensive display, but Rafael did most certainly play a key role and hopefully Sir Alex realizes that it’s time Rafael is ahead of John O’Shea in the pecking order at United and that he assumes his rightful title as Manchester United’s no. 1 Right back.

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Kristin said...

Rafael is gonna be a star! :D
he is already my favorite!

DeviledSpam said...

Decent read babe. Raphael @ RB is the best option we have & need. He should be 1st team always IMHO. He doesn't have much stature but plenty of pace, great getting forward, decent right shot & ALWAYS plays w/ passion which is why he is one of my faves. He tough a lil focker as well..hahaha

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