Rafael has arguably been the Reds' most consistent player this season. He sat down with Inside United recently to discuss the changes in his game and his ever-growing confidence...
Everybody’s talking about how much you’ve matured this season. What has changed to make that happen?
I'm getting old! [laughs] No, I think this is just a natural development – it's bound to happen when you play more games and have more experiences. My daughter has also helped me – it's settled me down a lot. When you're a dad you have to be mature. Also, I think splitting from Fabio – he's on loan at Queens Park Rangers this season – has been a good experience.
You used to get stick from people who said you went forward too much or threw yourself into too many tackles. Have you made a conscious effort to curb some of those instincts?
Yes and no. I'm a Brazilian and everybody knows how much we love to attack. Part of my game is going forward and I love to score goals – it's an incredible feeling. It's always been the case that I've had to think carefully about when to go forward and when to stay behind. I think the difference now is that I'm making more correct decisions and that's something that comes from playing regularly in the team. The same goes for my tackling. You can't always win the ball and sometimes the best thing to do is not to make a challenge. You learn when to tackle and when not to.
You seem more confident than ever. Would you agree?
I feel good, definitely. I'm getting older. I don't feel young anymore. I think everybody still thinks of me as this teenage boy who's only just arrived at the club. But I'm 22 now, I'm a father. I'm not a kid anymore. Now I feel like a man and maybe that shows on the outside. I'm obviously still learning about football and I'll keep learning, but I feel ready for anything now. I'm ready to make a big impact.