Rafa gets emotional about his Old Trafford return
Rafael da Silva is thankful for the messages of goodwill he has received from Manchester United fans on social media, ahead of his first return to Old Trafford since leaving in 2015.
The Brazilian defender became a hugely popular player with supporters throughout his stay, which featured 170 appearances, thanks to an infectious personality, relentless work-ethic and obvious love for the club.
Rafael was sold to Lyon during Louis van Gaal’s tenure as United manager and he enjoyed five successful seasons in France, before completing a transfer to Istanbul Basaksehir in the summer.
Da Silva produced a typically industrious display when the Turkish side beat us 2-1 earlier this month and, on Monday night, he landed in Manchester for a return fixture that means so much to him.
Club reporter Stewart Gardner caught up with Rafael to discuss his return to Old Trafford and how our fans will always have a place in his heart…
“It is amazing and, like I said before, coming back is a dream coming true, you know. I just remember a lot of things, I love this club and I feel happiness when I am here.”
When you walked out of the tunnel for training, did the memories come flooding back?
“A lot of things come back in my memory: my family watching the games, the goal I scored here against Wigan - I remember that one! Seriously, I remember a lot of things, even the bad things sometimes - against Bayern Munich, I remember. I have some good memories, some bad memories, but I am very happy with everything I did for this club.”
“I have been back here to Manchester when I played against City [with Lyon] and we won there at the Etihad Stadium, but I have not been back to Old Trafford. I didn't come to Old Trafford after that game.”
The fans never had a chance to say goodbye to you and I wish they were here at the match…
“Me too! But I have received a lot of messages on my Twitter and Instagram. I am very happy and glad about all of the messages I have received, and I thank all of the Manchester United supporters. I am a United supporter, I always say this, and it is a very good thing.”
“That’s right. It is a game and of course I want to win, I want to qualify with Istanbul Basaksehir and it's the first time the club has played in the Champions League, so this is a very important game. We have a chance to qualify so we need to do the same as we did in Turkey. I know it will be very, very hard, United are very good, so we need to concentrate and try to win this game.”
Ole said some nice things about you in his press conference – are you looking forward to seeing him again?
“Of course, Ole was starting his career as a coach here when I started and he helped me a lot, he helped my brother a lot, so I just thank Ole for everything and I hope he can have a great career at Manchester United.”
United Quiz: Fabio or Rafael? quiz
Just for fun, can you tell which da Silva twin is which?
“I know Fred and Telles. I really like Fred, I think he is a very good player, a box-to-box player, he runs all of the time, he has good technique, you see his style of play and I like it, he is always running and trying to do good things. Telles, I know he is a very good crosser of the ball, but I know less about him than Fred.”