Rafael da Silva is perhaps the epitome of the modern full-back, combining attacking ambition with defensive strength.
Blending Brazilian flair and attacking intent with English industry and endeavour, he neatly fuses trademark qualities of his countries of birth and residence. He has excelled at United ever since his first-team debut in a 1-1 draw with Newcastle in August 2008, a surprise outing prompted by an inspired pre-season display in Barry Fry's testimonial earlier that month.
Incredibly, what made Rafael's bow even more impressive was the fact he hadn't played competitively in over a year while the Reds applied for international clearance on his transfer (and that of twin brother Fabio) from Fluminense.
He made several noteworthy appearances throughout 2008/09, showcasing his infectious enthusiasm and willingness to attack, whilst also scoring his first goal, a sweetly-struck, left-foot volley at Arsenal in November, stating a convincing claim for the full-time right-back berth ahead of Gary Neville and Wes Brown. He was offered a two-year contract extension, nominated for the PFA's Young Player of the Year and earned a place on the bench for the Champions League final defeat to Barcelona.