UTD Unscripted: Let me tell you about the Sunshine Kids
I’ll get it out of the way now: this is going to sound weird.
They did a programme one time on MUTV where they went back to Brazil. I was watching it at home and, I think it was right at the end of the show, they were saying goodbye to their Dad and he was seeing them off before they came back to Manchester. I remember sitting watching it, tearing up a little bit, because it was just so emotional! But I just couldn’t help myself because those lads just brought out your emotions.
It wasn’t just me. They made such an impact on everyone with how happy they were and basically how infectious they were around the place. They just loved life, loved Manchester and they were happy kids doing what they loved best. They just came over as young lads, with their brother and his wife, and just completely bought into life in Manchester. They were absolutely brilliant.
But they weren’t all about smiling and laughing. When people talk about how physical and aggressive the British game is, and how hard it can be for foreign lads to come and acclimatise to the game here, it’s easy to forget in the twins’ case that they were South American defenders. Now, out there, those guys are on another level when it comes to aggression. When the twins first came to the club, some of the tackles that would go flying in during training… there was no sunshine in them.
The two of them used to kick lumps out of each other if they were on opposing teams, but they’d just get up and get on with it afterwards, like nothing had happened. Plenty of other people got caught by them too.
One time in particular stands out in my mind.
My brother Corry was a regular with the Reserves, and their manager, Warren Joyce, was a tough guy. He used to get all the young lads and make sure that they were totally ready for when the time came for them to go over and train with the first team. They couldn’t go over there as boys because they wouldn’t last two minutes; Joycey made sure they were able to put themselves about and hold their own.
Corry loved a tackle anyway, so he didn’t need too much encouragement.
On this particular day, I think I was doing a recovery after one of the games, and I’m looking on as the ball ends up between my brother and Fabio in a five-a-side game on one of the training pitches.
Corry wasn’t going to pull out of anything.
Fabio wasn’t going to pull out of anything.
The two of them ended up going into a 50-50 slide tackle and they’ve both ended up with big, massive gashes down their shins, right up to their knees. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it started a fight, but it definitely kicked off a little bit. The first-team lads were trying to say to the Reserve lads coming over: ‘that’s enough of that’.
That was just the way it was, it was great, there was always aggression in training, but as soon as the session was finished, it was over and done with. That was just the culture at the time and it was great to be a part of.
During my time at United, there weren’t many people who came to the club and didn’t appear to be enjoying themselves. When you’re winning trophies, feeling like you’re the best team in the Premier League, getting to Champions League finals and so on, it doesn’t really get much better as a footballer. You’re playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, it’s a fantastic club, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t love it. It was an easy time to be happy and enjoy what you were doing.
But nobody smiled more than the twins. I remember when Rafa nearly killed Fabio (or maybe the other way around) and they just fell about laughing. At the time, they were both saying that they really wanted to get into golf and they were having a lot of lessons, so they were really excited when we had a players’ golf day.
Once we got out there on the course, they had absolutely no idea what they were doing. They were genuinely horrendous (watch the video below for proof). One of them shanked a shot just past the other one’s head, but they could only see the funny side of it. Everything was the same.
Anderson was like that as well, actually. He had a really infectious personality too. Maybe it was a Brazilian thing and they’ve just got a different outlook on life to us; a different culture to what we’re used to.
Personally, being brought up in Belfast, I was used to the climate in Manchester. For a lot of foreign players coming over, the place has this reputation, but those lads came over from Brazil, as teenagers used to sunshine and the beach, and they completely bought into life in Manchester and fell in love with the place.
In terms of the football, they were great. I thought they were well suited to the Premier League. Rafa especially - I’ll never forget the impact he had at Arsenal in his first season. It was the first time – maybe the only time, actually – that I’ve seen a substitute come on at right-back and change the game. He completely altered everything and scored an absolutely brilliant goal. We still lost the game, but only just, and it was because of him that we almost recovered from two goals down.
They both had issues with injury during their time at United, but I know they loved being at the club. I don’t think either of them wanted to leave, but they ended up doing it, like lots of players do, so they could play more football elsewhere.
When Fabio moved on to QPR on loan, I remember feeling a bit emotional at that as well. It was so sad, just seeing them parted from each other. Seeing how close they were as twins and as brothers was just amazing. They just had such an incredible bond between themselves and it hurt them to be apart. Once Fabio had gone, Rafa had a bit more alone time around Dunham. I think he played a bit more golf, if I remember rightly, so maybe he improved!
Fabio joined Cardiff after he came back from QPR and Rafa went to France a couple of years later. They’re both in France now; Fabio at Nantes and Rafael at Lyon, but It wouldn’t surprise me if they came back to Manchester one day.
They had kids here, they love the club, love the city, they’re still loved by the fans. It won’t have left them, being a United player. It doesn’t. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them come back here one day. They can bring the sunshine back with them!
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