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He’s just like me… ten years ago: ‘Maverick’ Rio Ferdinand sees himself in Manchester United fullback Rafael

By Dean Wilkins

Rio Ferdinand sees a lot of himself in Manchester United’s first choice rightback Rafael, and he is expecting the Brazilian to be a ‘top player’.

The 22-year-old fullback has cemented his place in Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team and has left the manager with a tough choice when injured youngsters Phil Jones and Chris Smalling return.

With two goals in five games for the Reds this season – including a vital equaliser at Anfield on Sunday – Rafael’s attacking intent is obvious, but Ferdinand is eager for him to tame his tempestuous streak.

“Rafa is his own worst critic,” said the former Leeds centreback. “He is emotional and sometimes when he makes a mistake he has to make up for it immediately. That comes out in his game at times.

“When I was his age I was a lot like that.

“I used to be more interested in what was happening in the attacking part of the game and further up the pitch than defensive play.

“With experience that will disappear and you will see a top right-back.”

The ex-England captain moved to Leeds in 2000 from Harry Redknapp’s West Ham squad and he revealed he did not fully appreciate the art of defending until then.

“I realised it when I went to Leeds at 22,” said the 33-year-old. “I was more of a maverick under Harry Redknapp at West Ham and when I went to Leeds David O’Leary pulled the reins in and made me think about my defensive duties first.

“He said everything else would come naturally.

“I speak to Rafa about it similarly and he’s a quick learner.”

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