UTD Unscripted: Fun for all the family

Of course, I have loads of memories of playing with my twin brother.

We played all the time together as kids, all the time. We played for the same teams from being seven years old – youth clubs, then Fluminense, United and Brazil – and I feel like we helped each other every step of the way. You hear about a player going to a new club and not settling because they didn’t know anybody, but I always had my best friend with me. That made it easy to adapt to a new club, having each other.

I always loved playing with my brother. He’s very calm with the ball, you know? I like that because sometimes… it’s not that I’m not calm on the ball, but I might maybe rush, so when I watch him play I like to enjoy his composure. We do have different playing styles. Sometimes in certain situations when we were kids, like maybe at the beach, we would pretend to be each other, but that was never the case when football was involved. We always thought that people would be able to catch us doing it because our way of playing was very different. We are not identical on the pitch!

We always played together until he left United, and in all the years since, I have only ever played against him twice, here in France. Me for Lyon, him for Nantes. It was funny, I came on as left-back and he played at right-back, when normally I am right-back and here is left-back. We weren’t both on the pitch together for long, maybe 20 minutes, and we didn’t have time to go head-to-head for the ball. For sure, I would have won a 50-50 if there had been one. He knows me very well and I think he would have been scared!

Rafael da Silva says

“When we were kids, at the beach, we would pretend to be each other. But that was never the case when football was involved, because our way of playing was very different. We are not identical on the pitch!”

Back when we moved from Fluminense to United, we were a big help for each other because, of course, it was completely different to what we knew. Leaving Rio de Janeiro to go to Manchester meant that we had the rain and the cold, plus the cultures of Brazil and Manchester are totally different, and that was a bit of a shock for us. Straight away, one thing I really liked was that in Manchester we were able to live without being judged too much. In Brazil you are always judged and questioned, no privacy, so it was nice to be able to get away from that.

We had a lot of help and the club made it easy for us, but the most important thing was that we had each other, and it was just a very simple situation: it was two young players going to the best football club in the world. Nothing else mattered. Once we had a little bit of time and we had dealt with the emotion of the move and mixed in with the squad, it was amazing for us.

To be honest – and I have talked to my brother about this many times – if we were to play together for United today, I think we would enjoy it a lot more. We would have much more fun than we did. Whenever we played together in the United team, we were so nervous for each other, so tense, that we just didn’t enjoy it. I think we were just thinking about each other as well as ourselves. My brother is somebody who I care for more than myself, so when we played together I would be worrying if he made a mistake and he would be the same about me.

When I was on the bench and he was playing, it was easy for me! Like the 2011 Champions League final against Barcelona, my brother started and I didn’t, but I was just so emotional for my brother to be out there playing on the pitch in that game. For everything bad that had happened with injuries, he didn’t get to play often for United, but he started a Champions League final and I was just so happy for him. Of course, I was sad that I wasn’t playing, but I couldn’t be sad in that moment because my brother was on the pitch. It was impossible. I was just so happy for him even though I missed such a huge game. But when we were both on the pitch together it was different.

Football is to be enjoyed, so I think maybe that’s why we didn’t play well for United when we played together. It wasn’t the fun we had had playing together before as kids and at Fluminense. It’s a shame because that’s what we love to do together the most.

I’m not saying I regret it – of course I don’t! – but I’m just saying that if we were to do it now, we would enjoy it more. We are both fathers, we are more mature and I think we would definitely relax and enjoy the fact that we were two brothers playing together for the best football team in the world. Now I say to him: “Imagine if we were playing in this team together, it would be so different. It would be much more fun.” We did have fun, but not really when we played together. It might surprise people but it’s true and I think that’s maybe why we didn’t play many games in the same team – eight, I think, in total – because the gaffer could feel that from us. He could maybe see that when we played together we were tense.

Apart from one time.

Arsenal at Old Trafford in the 2011 FA Cup quarter-final.

Rafael da Silva says

“Whenever we played together, we were so nervous for each other, so tense, that we just didn’t enjoy it. My brother is somebody who I care for more than myself, so I would be worrying if he made a mistake.”

We could have signed for Arsenal. This happened. Before we signed for United, Arsenal came to us and wanted to sign us. We refused though and signed for United, so we made a good choice.

It was a crazy game, a great result but even better because we had so many players in different positions. The gaffer picked seven defenders and I think that’s why we had much more fun in that game. We played in positions we were not used to playing in. The gaffer told us all the team and said to my brother and I: “I want you two to just get forward and enjoy yourselves.” I was on the right wing, my brother was on the left, and we weren’t wingers, but it was just a special day because it was so different to what we knew. We just tried to play forward, play football and it went very well.

I maybe should have scored after a few minutes. Fabio crossed the ball from the left, I had a header and it went over, but I still imagine if that had gone in. That would have been one of the most amazing moments of my life. But never mind, I was still very happy with what happened next!

I put a cross in from the right wing for Chicharito. Once I saw that he got away from his marker, I just thought: this has to be a goal. It was still his first season at United, but already we all had the opinion that Chicha could score from anything. He scored for fun. He just knew how to do it, whatever the situation was. I know some players who can score plenty, but he was funny to see. I swear, some of the goals he scored were just funny because nobody else would think to score them. That header he scored at Stoke with the back of his head – I never saw anybody else even think to try that! Crazy goal. The guy was just crazy for goals. He was so hungry for goals that he just thought about how to do it wherever he was.

So, when Chicha headed my cross and the goalkeeper saved it, it was a surprise.

Then I saw my brother running towards the rebound, all alone.

Rafael da Silva says

“The gaffer told us: ‘I want you two to just get forward and enjoy yourselves.’ We weren’t wingers… it was so different to what we knew. We just tried to play forward, play football. It went very well.”

He has to score. That’s all I thought.

Now, he nearly missed, but it went in, the stadium went crazy and then it was time for us to celebrate. That one was for my older brother. We told him that if we scored in that game then it was for him. We told him that we would score and we did. The celebration is because he has a big head. He even has a nickname in Portuguese which in English means big head!

Of course, after my brother scored, then we could enjoy it more. After that, we enjoyed every minute of the game. That afternoon was just so much fun. It really was one of the great days of my life and for my entire family as well. I can say that. You know those days that you don’t want to finish? The kind that make you want to spend your whole life in that day? My brother scored, I got a half-assist, we celebrated for my other brother, we beat Arsenal, we went into the semi-finals… it was just amazing. Perfect.

For sure I know that my mum was crying afterwards because I spoke to her on the phone and she was in tears. My dad… today he will cry in front of us. He never used to before, but I think maybe he cried that day too. It was just one of the happiest days of their lives because we did what we did for them and because of them. After that game, I think they knew for sure that they did the right thing with us.

I still speak to my brother every single day, either on a call or a message, and sometimes we still talk about that Arsenal game. If somebody sends me or my brother a video of that game, or people are talking about how we had seven defenders on the pitch that day, we will send it to each other. You have to talk about the good things in life, no? So, of course, we will always talk about that perfect day for our family.

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