Rafael: Maybe one day I'll play again at Old Trafford!
Much-loved former Manchester United full-back Rafael da Silva has made a guest appearance in today's 'MUTV Group Chat', revealing how much he's missed the club since leaving, and who he'd select in his ultimate six-a-side team.
After joining alongside his twin brother Fabio as a teenager in 2007, the Brazilian went on to make 170 appearances for the Reds, scoring five goals and winning three league titles, before leaving to join Lyon in 2015.
Famously feisty and energetic, the pint-sized defender delivered a superbly consistent season in Sir Alex Ferguson's final campaign as manager, which ended in a record-breaking 20th title for United.
Now, Rafa is a mainstay of the Lyon side, where he is contracted until 2021, and was memorably part of the side that defeated Pep Guardiola's Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in 2018.
As you will learn from our exclusive Q&A, our former no.2 is still full of love for Old Trafford and the United supporters, and has plenty of praise for two particular players in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's current squad...
How are you? How are your family, your brother?
“Yeah, we are in France. Everyone is good. We try to keep safe with this, but I hope to play soon!”
You're with Lyon these days. Is it the same as here in terms of lockdown – you can't do anything?
“Complete lockdown. We are allowed to go to the supermarket to buy things, or the pharmacist, but, except for that, it's lockdown. We cannot do anything.”
I can't quite believe it's five years since you left United. Five years! You've joined a great club in Lyon, but do you miss United a bit? We miss you!
“I miss United a lot. I still receive the messages from the supporters, from everybody. Five years is a long time, but, for me, it's like one or two years. I keep remembering everything about United.”
Come on then – what were your personal highlights from your time at United?
“I always say that when you get to 18, and when you pass Liverpool! Everybody's talking about 'stop the competition', no? They don't get to 20! It will be hard for them [if the league is cancelled], great for us! But that [winning the 19th title in 2011] was my best moment.”
Every time one of your goals appears on social media, Rafa, you always retweet it as well don't you! There's the one at Anfield, the one at QPR - what was the best one?
“I have to say, I didn't score many! That's for sure! But the goals I scored were good, but I didn't score many. But the special one was Liverpool, sure. My first one was special, as well, because it was my first one - against Arsenal. A left-foot [shot], in the corner. I scored some good goals, to be honest [laughs]!”
Do you still watch United a lot? Are you still in touch with any of the players and the coaches?
“I know David De Gea, we keep in touch. Juan Mata. [But] all the guys I played with, they left! So there's not many I played with [still there] but the guys that I played with before, of course we keep in touch.”
I guess Ole was the reserve-team coach, perhaps, when you were there? Have you got good memories of Ole?
“Yeah, good memories. I really like Ole. He helped my brother a lot. If you remember, it was Ole who took my brother to Cardiff, when my brother was at United. He helped me a lot. More my brother than me, because, in that time, my brother played more in the Reserves, you know. Him and Warren [Joyce] both were very helpful for him, so I really like the way he does his job and the way he deals with players.”
How is your brother?
“My brother is getting better now. He got a big injury, but he's now maybe one month and a half [before] he gets back to the pitch. It's been a long time. I speak with him every day, and it's not easy, because it was a big injury, you know? But he's better now.”
Who's the angriest of the two of you?! I can't imagine either of you being angry!
“On the pitch, I was angry all the time!”
In your position now, Rafa, is Aaron Wan-Bissaka. I just wonder if you've seen him this season? What do you make of him?
“I really like him. I really like him - the way he plays, and his mentality. I think United now, we need to think about mentality, and I think Aaron is like this. He wants to win; he wants to win every ball, and that's good. He plays for the badge; that's important.”
Would you fancy, one day, playing at Old Trafford again? Whether that's for Lyon in the Champions League or Europa League... I mean it's been five years – you'd think you'd have played again here at some point!
“I'm 30 now, so I have years left to play. So, of course, I fancy to play at Old Trafford. It would be amazing. I never did, but who knows? Maybe, one day, we can play at Old Trafford again.”
Rafael was a trusted lieutenant for Sir Alex Ferguson.
You can't be 30?!
“[Laughs] Don't say that, because every friend, everybody that speaks to me says 'Oh, you're 30! You play it seems 20 years [of] football'. It's crazy, but I'm still 30 – I started very young!”
Talking about Brazilian players. Fred is having a great season. He had a tough start at United, but he's probably one of our players of the season so far?
“I've been very impressed, because, at the beginning, I heard a lot of comments about him. 'Ah, he's no good' or things like that. I like what he did, because it's about mentality as well. He's just turned everything around, like you said. Maybe he can be our best player at Manchester this season. We can see he's a great player.”
Rafa was a big fan of Wayne Rooney's abilities.
We were looking through the archives from some pre-season tours, and we were just wondering if your golf has improved, becasue we've looked at some pictures of you playing... It's not good at all!
“I improved a lot! That video won't happen again - I've improved a lot! I can hit the ball now!”
Here's a question we're asking a lot of people, Rafa. We're asking them to pick their Manchester United six-a-side team from the players that you played with, so can you pick a Manchester United six-a-side with from the players you played with?
“[Gasps] Ooh, it's hard. I put Van der Sar in goal - sorry David! I have to put Van Der Sar. Ferdinand. I put Giggs on the left, he [can] score from the middle. Ronaldo, Rooney and Antonio Valencia.”
That's a good team.
“That's a good team, for me.”
Thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate your time.