24/12/2012 09:01, Report by Gemma Thompson

Boss hails Rafael's rise

Sir Alex Ferguson believes Rafael has been Manchester United's most improved performer this season.

The Brazilian right-back has started more matches than anyone else this term and has regularly caught the eye with some excellent defensive displays combined with his usual enthusiasm to attack. And he has also chipped in with a couple of goals.

Sir Alex uses his column in the Newcastle edition of United Review - the Reds' official match programme - to wax lyrical about the 22-year-old's maturity and the progress he has made, particularly in the last 12 months.

"The truly eye-catching improvement this season so far for me is the maturity that young Rafa has added to his game," says the United boss.

"He has always shown himself as a defender with ability and great enthusiasm, but not always with great decision making, especially in European football, giving him - and us - some scary moments.

"His performance against Queens Park Rangers [last month] was outstanding with his defensive work and attacking making his presence a key factor in our 3-1 win.

"I would have no hesitation saying that he is our most improved player this season with a couple of goals a reflection of his eagerness to lend a hand up front."

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