Brazilian defender Rafael da Silva has been at Manchester United for a long time now. In fact, he's into his seventh season with the club. But, there's no doubt about it, he's still a major liability at Old Trafford.
In and out
Injuries, of corse, have disrupted his flow at times throughout his United career, but there's more to it than just that. There's something not quite there with the Brazilian. In the 2012/13 season - Rafael's best campaign for the club - the full-back was magnificent as he racked up 28 league appearances for the club. In his other five seasons, however, he's not managed to play in over half of the club's league games.
The man he replaced Gary Neville was an intelligent footballer and was similar to Rafael in regards to his mind set. Neville was a warrior for the Red Devils; he was always up for the battle. And, in all fairness, the same can be said about Rafael. He doesn't hide away and he always seems to be in the game for one reason on another.
But, Neville's hot-head was often controlled - Rafael's is far from that. Of course, Neville made mistakes, but United's Brazilian star seems to make far too many, and he doesn't seem to be learning from them.
You only have to go back a couple of years when Manchester United travelled to the Madjeski to take on a struggling Reading side. The Brazilian was hauled off after thirty minutes as he endured a nightmare opening period in Berkshire. Jobi McAnuff ran the full-back riot, with Rafael seemingly a red card waiting to happen. And that game was in the 2012/13 campaign - the one we've earmarked as the player's best campaign...
Consistency has always been an issue for Rafael. And, on that front, things don't look like changing anytime soon.
His last two games in a Manchester United shirt prove just that: he was awful against Leicester City as United went down by five goals to three at the King Power Stadium just over a week ago.
Fans of the Red Devils were upset that United weren't handed a free-kick after Jamie Vardy seemingly fouled the Brazilian. But, United fans should have been just as upset with Rafael. There's no reason why the full-back had to foul Vardy just because he was 'fouled' himself.
In truth, Rafael was also at fault for Leicester's first goal of the afternoon as he failed to get close to his man. It was one of those days for the 24-year-old, but it was one of those days that he has on a regular basis.
Against West Ham United, however, Rafael produced the goods. He looked solid, composed on the ball and offered an attacking threat down the right hand side. Of course, it was the Brazilian who set up United's first goal of the day by producing a marvellous cross for Wayne Rooney. An intelligent piece of play, it must be said.
So, why does he continue to let himself down? Even against the Hammers, there was room for criticism. As he broke from the edge of United's box, he was taken down by Diafra Sakho, which led to the Brazilian getting right into the face of referee Lee Mason.
Rafael was desperate to see Sakho shown a red card after Wayne Rooney's sending off, but the challenges were not alike despite both stopping breaks. Rafael's reaction just wasn't needed. Yet again he was in danger of losing his head just as Manchester United needed him most.
And, it's his hot-head that may well have ruined his career for the national team. At the Olympics of 2012, Rafael was hauled off late on in a final that Brazil lost after a bust up with his own teammate Juan. The pair squared up with each other and Rafael hasn't been seen on the international stage since.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that Rafael revealed that he wanted to stay at Manchester United for the rest of his career.
"I am glad I am still here, but sad because a lot of friends have left," he said.
"I want to keep going and stay here forever, if possible."
"It depends on me to play well, I need to play well. I just want to stay here.
"I can never say enough about this club. It is one of the best clubs in the world, if not the best in the world."
These comments once again underline the mentality of the man. He may well be a liability, but his heart is in the right place. He's loyal to Manchester United and is desperate to prove his credentials at the club. The fans should love his way of thinking...to an extent.
Rafael must now sort himself out on the pitch and use his passion to benefit his career rather than hinder it. He has the ability, but it's time to mature. At 24-years-old, he's not a youngster any more and it's time to recognise his role in the team and become a consistent figure in Louis van Gaal's side.
Manchester United fans: Do you agree? What are your thoughts on Rafael? Have your say in the comments section below!
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