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Full back set for exit as Louis van Gaal continues to axe flops?

Out of favour and seemingly out of time, Rafael da Silva’s time at Old Trafford appears to be drawing to an end according to the Manchester Evening News. The Brazilian full back has found himself down the pecking order, behind both Antonio Valencia and Paddy McNair, when fit this season and this could well signal the intentions of his Dutch manager.

Alarm bells have been ringing since December for the tenacious Rafael, he was left out of the squad for Liverpool injury free, and was seemingly not scoring highly in the Louis van Gaal comparisons league to the aforementioned pair. The last Premier League start Rafael managed was against Chelsea where Didier Drogba was able to shrug him off and score (though why he was ever marking Drogba I’ll never know) way back on October 26th. In fact, only three players currently have less first team minutes than the right back – James Wilson, Jesse Lingard and Tom Thorpe.

The writing is being at least stencilled out for a player once so pivotal in a title-winning side. The last time Manchester United won the league many believe Rafael was unfortunate to miss out on being named the best right back in the league (Pablo Zabaleta earning the crown) and it was firmly believed he would push Dani Alves for his spot in the Brazilian National side. Alas, it was not to be. Quite what prompted the decline isn’t obvious, perhaps the ‘Moyes effect’ that seems to have been afflicted onto his other defensive colleagues (bar David de Gea of course) is now terminal, or perhaps a decline is merely a figment of Louis van Gaals’ imagination.

Form last season was poor all round, but Rafael maintained his tenacity and flair going forward and still continued to look more than capable defensively (a prerequisite for a defender). In the U21’s this season he has kept that unpredictability that endears so many to him alive. A crunching tackle on Steven Pienaar against the Everton Reserves recently a testament to this. And back to the Chelsea game, he cannot be blamed for losing Drogba, a man twice his height and girth and a mismatch to say the absolute least, of course a challenge physically and aerially is going to be a farce. Memory does not always do justice in football.

Antonio Valencia has been assured there this season, but in a year where he has been creating more than the last two to three seasons, why not utilise him further up the park? Allowing Rafael to add his own brand of marauding, unpredictable flair on things, it could be just the kick-start our attack needs. A pacey, aggressive presence raising forward from the back would be wonderful to watch and something I would definitely welcome.

Unfortunately, I’m not the decision maker at United. And unfortunately again it seems as though the door is being propped open for him to be thrown out of. It is a crying shame for things to end this way and not something that should happen. Rafael could be a consistent feature (as intended by Sir Alex Ferguson) for years to come, and Lord knows we need some consistency in a poor and failing defensive unit. With any luck.

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