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Manchester United Cult Hero: Rafael da Silva – Our Greatest Brazilian

Louis van Gaal got rid of a load of Manchester United players during his reign in charge of the Red Devils but his sale of Rafael da Silva was the one that hurt the most and cut the deepest. The Brazilian was sold to Lyon for a measly fee of £2.5 million after being left out of Manchester United’s US tour squad.

Rafael, and his identical twin brother Fabio, were two players that I will always remember from their time at Old Trafford. When they joined from Fluminense Fabio was viewed as the better of the two and his versatility meant he could play as a left-back. Patrice Evra was in the form of his life and this resulted in Fabio struggling for playing time whilst on the right-hand side injuries to United legend Gary Neville and John O’Shea meant Rafael had opportunities and developed better in England.

Both Da Silva twins can look back on their Manchester United careers with positives. Rafael and Fabio were excellent, playing as midfielders, against Arsenal in the FA Cup. Fabio scored in the game and it was great work from the twins to get the goal, a counter attack started from Edwin van der and ended up with a goal for Fabio.

Rafael was great against rivals Manchester City and Liverpool and loved to battle and fight with them with the same passion as those from Manchester itself. At Anfield in 2011, just before half-time, Jamie Carragher went hard in a tackle and injured Manchester United winger Nani and a small brawl followed. A few minutes later Rafael won the ball back and then went flying into fellow Brazilian Lucas Leiva, what followed was typical Rafael, Marten Skrtel, and three others squared up to the Brazilian but Rafael stood there shouting at all of them. A few years later, also at Anfield, Rafael scored with an excellent finish with his weaker left foot and Manchester United went on to win 2-1 thanks to a goal from Robin van Persie. Against local rivals Manchester City and former United striker Carlos Tevez kicked out at Rafael and the Brazilian did what every United fan wanted to and he stood up to the Argentinian with his no nonsense attitude and was shouting at him.

In some games under Louis van Gaal Manchester United lacked any sort of passion, flair and excitement and when Rafael scored his goal against Tottenham’s under 21s it showed us what they were missing and why he deserves to be in the first team. The Tottenham keeper threw the ball out but it went straight to Rafael who controlled it and with his weaker foot lobbed it over the goalkeeper. Rafael was always someone who got the fans up and they could see that someone on the pitch cared, when too many times under David Moyes and van Gaal it looked like no one did, whether that be attacking or if that was a crunching tackle on the opposition Rafael was always fighting for United. A player who should never have been let go and will always have a cult hero status among Manchester United fans.

Not long after Rafael had joined Lyon the Brazilian got an injury but instead of taking his wages every week Rafael met with the club and asked not to be paid during his injury lay-off, the club were under legal obligation to still pay him so the generous defender donated it to the Lyon charity for children instead. The money raised bought a robot so that the kids can virtually attend Lyon’s Stadium.

“I like to play and to be paid for doing that. But I wasn’t playing. I’m happy to have done that for the kids, but it was good for me too, it helped me.”

I’d like to finish with a small mention about his twin brother Fabio. It did not work out as well for Fabio at Old Trafford but I am still a fan of his today. The best moment in Fabio’s Manchester United career was he started the Champions League Final in 2011 against Barcelona. I wish all the best to both Rafael and Fabio it was great to see them playing for the club and I got the feeling that these got what United are and what it means to put on the shirt, they fought with passion and love for the club. Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro and with the heart of Manchester.

Written by Luke Lacey

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