Rafael’s love for a tackle, willingness to get forward to support the attack and Brazilian flair have combined to make him a firm favourite with Reds fans.

2009/10 appearances: League 8, 1 goal; Carling Cup 4; Europe 3(1). Total: 15(1), 1 goal.

Season soundbite: "He has such character, such talent and great courage. He’s got that Brazilian mentality where he wants to get on the ball all the time. He gives us renewed faith that young players can come into the Manchester United team and excel." – Sir Alex

In a word: Exciting
31/05/2010 08:00, Report by Nick Coppack
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Player review: Rafael

It’s sometimes easy to forget Rafael is still a teenager... like when he more than held his own against Ronaldinho in the San Siro, or shackled Franck Ribery and terrorised the Bayern Munich left side at Old Trafford.

Story of the season: Like so many other Reds defenders, Rafael's season was blighted by injuries. Shoulder trouble in pre-season meant his first appearance of 2009/10 only came in late October, and that was in the centre of midfield at Barnsley. Sporadic outings at right back followed but by Christmas the young Brazilian had only chalked up five appearances. He'd go on to make 11 more before the season's end, but an ankle injury sustained in the Carling Cup final limited him to just two starts from March onwards.

Finest moment: He netted United's third in a 5-0 home win over Wigan, but it was his performances in Europe that really caught the eye. Thrust into action at the San Siro, and up against his countryman Ronaldinho, he passed the test with flying colours. In the next round he dazzled for 45 minutes in the home leg against Bayern Munich, keeping Franck Ribery quiet and injecting pace and invention to the Reds' forward forays.

What’s in store? Nobody would dare suggest he’s the finished article yet, but United fans have certainly seen enough to

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