In-form fullback Rafael was Manchester United’s stand out player during their lacklustre victory over West Ham last night, and is earning praise off of his teammates and boss.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones missed four months of the season start through injury and opened the door to a regular place for the 22-year-old Brazlian.
And with twin brother Fabio loaned out to QPR, his maturity has progressed as he focusses on the job in hand with the Reds.
Robin van Persie scored the Premier League’s quickest goal of the season (inside 33 seconds) but United could not add to their tally and held their nerve to earn a 1-0 win – but it was their young rightback who stole the limelight from Sir Alex.
“Rafael is maturing. He’s 22 years of age but came here as a young kid and was in the first-team at 18,” said the Scot.
“He made rash mistakes because he’s such an enthusiastic boy but he’s maturing and is learning from that.”
Lone striker Andy Carroll was unable to influence the game and Rafael consistently won tackles with his scrappy and tenacious attitude.
And Michael Carrick is beginning to notice the importance of playing alongside the youngster as his season goes from strength to strength.
“He has progressed every year he has been here,” Carrick told MUTV. “He came across at a very young age and it was a big change from Brazil and what he was used to.
“Every season he has got better and better. He has played nearly every game this season and has been terrific. There is still more to come from him, he is still learning the game and is still improving, so it is great for him and he is having a good time.”
Emulating his manager’s comments about Rafael’s enthusiasm, Jonny Evans claimed that his engine is something that sets the bar for the team to aim for.
“He’s been outstanding all season,” he said. “There’s not really been anybody challenging for his right-back position but he’s done fantastic.
“With his energy, he really sets the tone for the rest of the players. He’s a credit to himself.
“People might have thought it would be tough for him with his brother going away but he’s got his head down, he’s working hard and he’s going to be one of the best right-backs in the world, no doubt about that.”