volley in the defeat at Arsenal in November 2008. He quickly began stringing together top-level performances, displacing fit-again club captain Gary Neville and England international Wes Brown at various stages of the campaign. Rafael copes with high-pressure matches with a calm which belies his tender years.
Sir Alex Ferguson handed Rafael a two-year contract extension before the defender had even completed his first season in England. The Brazilian ended 2008/09 with a nomination for the PFA Young Player of the Year award, and a place on the bench in the Champions League final, just a year after watching from the stands in
Injuries blighted Rafael's second season at United. Shoulder trouble in pre-season meant his first appearance of 2009/10 only came in late October, and an ankle injury sustained in the Carling Cup final limited him to just two starts from March onwards. But there were still highlights, including a goal against Wigan and some eye-catching displays in the Champions League. On a dramatic night against Bayern Munich, however, he spoiled a fabulous display by getting sent off for a second yellow card.
Clearly distraught, it was a harsh lesson for the South American whose only crime had been to