Manchester United fans were genuinely saddened when it was announced in early August 2015 that Rafael da Silva had been sold to Lyon.
The lively Brazilian right-back had been at Old Trafford for seven years and produced some memorable moments for the Red Devils during that time.
He won three Premier League titles with United but his career with the Premier League giants began to go downhill following Sir Alex Ferguson’s shock retirement in 2013.
Rafael played 28 matches during David Moyes’ ill-fated season and then made just 11 appearances during Louis van Gaal’s debut campaign.
Van Gaal, for whatever reason, didn’t seem to trust Rafael and instead used Antonio Valencia, an attacking winger by trade, as his right-sided full-back.
Almost three years after leaving Man Utd, Rafael has now spoken out about the way he was treated by Van Gaal and it certainly makes for eyebrow-raising reading.
ESPN’s Andy Mitten has conducted a fascinating interview with the 27-year-old, who admits he was warned about Van Gaal when it was announced the veteran Dutch coach was Moyes’ permanent replacement in the summer of 2014.
Rafael reveals how Van Gaal treated him
"When it was announced that Van Gaal was taking over, four or five people, including players, called me to say that he doesn't like Brazilian players," Rafael said. "They pointed out what had happened with Rivaldo at Barcelona, but I didn't believe it."
"In his first season, Van Gaal called me to his office and said: 'You can leave’. The meeting lasted one minute. That was it: 'You can leave.' It took time for me to go, but I was desperate to leave when I did, and that saddens me because I loved everything about Manchester United.
"Van Gaal is not a bad coach, but I didn't like his character. One day, I was in the canteen waiting to eat. Van Gaal used to speak to us after we'd eaten each day. I had a head injury after a game at Yeovil -- one of the few games I played in that season -- and I was touching my injury. After three or four seconds, he touched my head and said: 'Why don't you respect me?'
"I stood up and said: 'I always respect you. I've never said anything which was disrespectful to you.' I am a patient guy, but I got angry then. I had done nothing wrong. Antonio [Valencia] later said to me: 'You're not going to play again.' Players didn't speak back to Van Gaal. Antonio was almost right; I barely played again. I love Manchester United, but I was so desperate to leave United. Only one man did that because I liked everything about the place. I couldn't handle him anymore."
The text message Van Gaal sent to Rafael
Three days after completing his move to Lyon, Rafael received an unexpected text message from Van Gaal, who it seems had barely spoken to the South American in the months before his departure.
He continued: ”Van Gaal texted me to say: 'You know how football is.' I couldn't believe it. He didn't speak to me and then texted me to wish me well."
Asked if he replied, Rafael added: "I did. I said: 'Thank you.' I was being polite. But I was angry."
You can hardly blame him for feeling angry.
Van Gaal had ostracised him for months and forced him out of Old Trafford.
Rafael knows ‘how football is’ but there was no excuse for Van Gaal’s conduct, which will hardly surprise United supporters.
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