The Brazilian right-back was among the players rested from the midweek defeat to Cluj in the Champions League but his absence from the last hour of the rollercoaster win at Reading last Saturday was a different matter.
Already on a yellow card, Rafael was the ‘victim’ of a rare first-half substitution as Sir Alex tried to seize control of a frenzied game and keep a full complement of players on the pitch. But although that tactical ploy paid off for the boss, many pundits would fancy Rafael – one of United’s best performers this term - to reclaim his place from Chris Smalling on Sunday.
“Every player wants to be involved, derbies are always great games to be a part of,” acknowledged Rafael in Inside United. “It will be huge, as it is every time we play them now. It’s funny, though – I remember when I first joined United, the game against City was just a normal match. It wasn’t any bigger or smaller than most other fixtures, but now it’s probably the biggest one on the calendar. We’re hoping to get a good result there.”
While some might think City’s exit from Europe this week will give them an advantage in the 2013 title race, Rafael insists the Reds are also greatly focused on the league. “At United we start the season wanting to win every competition we play in," he said. "But the league is special. Winning it is an incredible feeling and we want to feel that again. It’s important to us this season and we’ll battle as hard as we can to make sure we lift the trophy.”