My daughter made me a man: Daddy cool Rafael hails parenting and as key to fruitful Manchester United season

By Dean Wilkins

Welcoming his daughter into the world and parting ways with his brother (temporarily) has turned rising Manchester United star Rafael into a man, according to the Brazilian.

At 22 years old, Rafael already has four years Old Trafford experience under his belt and dons Gary Neville’s iconic No. 2 shirt – he is also Sir Alex Ferguson’s first-choice rightback.

His season so far has been hailed by himself, teammates and fans as his best yet and the youngster is putting it all down to being a dad.

“It’s been a great year for me,” he told “I feel like I have grown up a lot and that I am maturing – my daughter was born this year which has helped me a lot too.

He added: “Some people may think I am still young and still a boy but now I feel like I am man.”

Rafael scooped fans’ Player of the Month, Goal of the Month and has been set the challenge of becoming ‘the best in the world’ by his manager, who has backed him since first arriving from Fluminense with twin brother Fabio.

But the Brazilian international is also attributing his success to having been given the chance to become a regular as United kicked off their season with a mountain of defensive injuries.

“Playing games week in, week out helps you feel more comfortable and confident on the pitch and I’m pleased I’ve been able to do that this season,” he added.

“I feel more experienced and like I am growing as a player and a person. I was only 18 when I first came here, I was just a boy.”

While the halfway mark of the season approaches, Rafael is eyeing up the business end of the year and is desperate to taste silverware success once again.

 “My target for 2013 is like every player – we want to win trophies,” he added. “When you’re at this club that has to be your focus, we all want to win. And personally I want to play as many games as I can and be consistent in my performances.

“When you get into January you know the really important time in the season is not far away and there will be big game after big game. Of course, every game is important but after Christmas they become massive matches. Hopefully we can do well.”

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