Since Rafael Da Silva made his debut for Manchester United in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford against Newcastle back in August 2008 he has been earmarked as one of the best young gems the game has had to offer in recent times. Brave on and off the ball, Rafael is never one to shy away from making hard-hitting tackles or make lung-busting runs, ones which have made Gary Neville a legend at Old Trafford. However though now having had two seasons under he’s belt is it time that Rafael made the right back position his own? Well here is what I think.
Rafael has certainly impressed since he’s debut. He made his first start against Aalborg in the Champions League back in 2008 and was arguably United’s best player on the field that night, he showed great energy, made great tackles and had a few good efforts on goal.
He was trusted in big competitive games like Manchester City away where he didn’t look out-of-place and impressed again, he also came on and scored a great goal in a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal which really rose he’s profile the way he seemed to lift the team and nearly get us a point was remarkable for a teenager at the time.
He has then gone on to score another goal against Wigan, play in a Cup final and win, and has made himself a fans favorite for his passion and drive. He has come out of battles with players like Ronaldinho with his head raised high. Nominated for the PFA award for young player of the year it’s not just United fans that notice he’s potential. With 44 appearances and 2 goals to his name he certainly has made a good start to his career at Old Trafford, however though the question is, should he be the regular choice?
Well there is certainly a gap needed to be replaced with a full-time right back. Every since Gary Neville had that horrible injury back in March of 2007 other players have been given the chance to take the right back spot.
Wes Brown made it his own back in the successful 2007/2008 season where he impressed and looked to be United’s first choice for right back, only to be badly injured in the next campaign and see his place taken by John O’Shea who also impressed in the 2008/2009 season and looked to make the right back spot his own, however it was a case of deja vu as he was struck down by injury away on Ireland duty, so last season we saw a mixture of O’Shea, Brown, Rafael and Neville playing at right back.
So there is a chance there for Rafael.
He isn’t the finished article though, and the Champions league game against Bayern Munich we saw the best and worst of Rafael. Brilliant in the first half Rafael was United’s best player and nearly scored a fantastic goal. United were 3-0 up and cruising to the Champions League semifinal, however a challenge with Van Bommel where the Dutch man fouled Rafael but went unpunished, saw Rafael in a moment of inexperience lash out at Van Bommel (can you really blame him? It is Van Bommel where on about) and a yellow card was shown.
Bayern then went on to score to bring the tie to 3-4 on aggregate and needing only one goal to see them through with a nineteen inexperienced right back on a yellow card, talk about threading on ice!
Then came the game turning decision Rafael struggling behind Franck Ribery, the whole crowd sees it coming, and it does, he slightly tugs at the shirt of Ribery and after a lot of card waving by the German team the young boy is off, more proof that experience is everything.
This showed Rafael’s bad side because while he is committed and will tackle hard, when he does go in for a tackle its like watching Wayne Rooney being dispossessed and then chasing the field after the dis-possessor, you know he’s going to lunge in, and you can’t help but cringe and hope, he comes out with the ball.
However with every game Rafael is learning and he has one of the best ever right backs in Neville to learn from. Personally I don’t think Rafael will make the right back spot his own this season, personally I think O’Shea is probably our best right back, he’s solid and very rarely makes mistakes, but I do think if O’Shea is injured then Rafael should start.
Verdict: Probably a year to soon, but expect him to play more games this season then in the last two.