Which of your team-mates has impressed you most this season?
I actually think Rafael has done really well. He has shown real maturity. His brother has gone out on loan now and it’s probably given him a lot more responsibility. Because of the injuries, too, there hasn’t been much competition for him at right back so he has really stepped into the position and made it his own.
Is Rafael’s situation similar to what you experienced breaking into the team?
Rafael is a lot younger than me but he stepped into the first-team probably in the same season I did. We both made our breakthrough seasons in that same year. He probably played about 30 games that season, which is incredible for a young player. Even back then you knew he was going to be a fantastic player. He has been for a number of years. Some people have criticised his all-action style, but I think he has managed to find the right balance now and he’s become, I think, one of the best full-backs in the world.
What’s the relationship like between the defenders? Are you mates? Do you encourage each other in training and games?
Yeah, definitely. We always say, ‘well done’ if someone has a good game. I know that, at other clubs, you get people thinking that if another player plays in their position they want them to do badly. That’s life in a way - people don’t want someone else to come in and do their job better than them. But I’ve never really taken that point of view. I don’t think any of the lads in this team think, ‘When he comes into the team, I hope he makes a mistake today’. We’re all in it together, we’re Manchester United and we want to win trophies. If I’m not getting picked in the team and the player in that position makes mistakes, we’re not going to win leagues are we? We’re not going to win trophies. We’re all in it together and we need each other to be successful.
In five years’ time do you think you’ll appreciate even more having learned your trade alongside Ferdinand and Vidic?
When I first came into the first-team squad, the level that those two were playing at was unbelievable. The presence they have, the way they could defend, it was the very top. For younger players to try and emulate that was a big ask. It still is. But for me coming through the youth team looking at these two fantastic players, it was all about trying to get to that level - not necessarily as quick as possible but