As Rafael da Silva continues his hunt to cement the Manchester United rightback position, Sir Alex Ferguson is hailing the youngster’s maturity and enthusiasm for his bright start to the season.
The 22-year-old Brazilian has started all but two games this campaign and has netted a couple of vital goals against Liverpool and Fulham to prove his worth in a struggling back four.
And despite his attacking prowess, Rafael is beginning the master the art of decision making to reduce the number of times he leaves a hole in United’s defence.
“Rafael was our best player on Saturday [against Stoke],” the Scot said.
“He’s maturing and learning all the time and he’s blessed with great enthusiasm to play. He has good skill, speed, determination and he has all the qualities and maturity brings all them together. Bit by bit he’s done that in the last two or three years.”
During last year’s campaign Rafael battled injuries and competition with teammates Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, as well as twin brother Fabio, for the fullback position.
But after working closely with United’s coaching staff, as well representing his country at the Olympics, the promising defender is earning praise from his manager.
“Last year and the year before he was impulsive, over-committing himself,” Fergie added. “He knows that and we’ve been over it a few times.
“But he’s maturing fantastically.”
Rafael sealed his move to Old Trafford as a 17-year-old without ever having played a first team game for Brazilian side Fluminense.
If he features in tonight’s Champions League clash against FC Braga he will make his 100th appearance in a United shirt and the Olympic silver medallist echoed his manager’s words about his progress.
“I think mature is the right word,” he said. “I’ve learnt to hold a little bit. I always want to know more and read the game more to find out what a player is going to do next. I’m definitely more mature.
“The way I play for United has changed a bit and maybe that’s why fans are looking at me differently. I’m playing more maturely and I’m scoring goals as well.
“I hope I can keep improving.”