Manchester United defender Rafael has grown into one of the Premier League's leading full-backs and is now an integral part of the champions' team.

The 23-year-old used to be extremely rash and was often criticised for his poor positioning as he would often go on mazy runs into the middle of the pitch - leaving Antonio Valencia to fill in at his expense.

However Rafael has adapted his game and has improved the defensive elements of his game.

Like the two best left-backs in the league - Ashley Cole and Patrice Evra - Rafael started as a attack-minded wing-back playing at right-back rather than an orthodox defender who could also attack.

During the first three games of the season, Manchester United have looked shaky in the right-back's absence.

England international Phil Jones has had to deputise at right-back for United's first three Premier League games since Rafael limped off with a hamstring injury against Wigan Athletic in the Community Shield at Wembley.

Jones - is capable of playing at right-back - but he doesn't offer the same threat going forward as Rafael.

Rafael scored three goals and claimed three assists in the Premier League last season, which is not a bad tally when compared to United's Nani (one goal, two assists) and Ashley Young who failed to score and claimed a mere three assists.

The majority of Manchester United fans were worried when the legendary Gary Neville retired from professional football - but Rafael is a better all-round player.

The Red Devils are not the same force when Rafael's not playing, which is testament to the Brazilian international.

New Manchester United manager David Moyes will be relishing the possibility of handing Rafael his first Premier League start under his tenure against Crystal Palace - as he will know the right-back is a better option than Jones.

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