The Brazilian started 14 of the Reds' first 16 games in all competitions, weighing in with two valuable goals and garnering plenty of praise.
So it was something of a novelty to see him on the bench for the late 3-1 win over Braga on Wednesday, when the Reds sealed qualification to the Champions League knock-out stages with two games to spare.
But the 22-year-old says he benefited from the break and even benefitted from watching his stand-in, Antonio Valencia, before entering the fray in the final 20 minutes.
"Everyone needs a rest sometimes," Rafael admitted to MUTV. "I had a good break and then came on, which was also good as I don’t want to be playing no football at all.
"My friendship with Antonio is good. He plays well in every position and it's good to watch him and learn something you're not doing. Being the number one right-back at this club is important to me."
United’s European progression has helped to erase the disappointment of last season.
"It's very good to get through with two games to go," Rafael continued. "We focused more in the games this time.
"Last season we did not do well, so we had to improve and concentrate better, and that's what we did."