With Gary Neville declaring retirement during the 2010/11 season, Manchester United had to find a player that could fill his role quickly.
Rafael had played in the first-team prior to Neville's retirement, although many didn't feel he was going to be good enough to fill the gap - that was until he was given the job of replacing Neville for good.
It is a lot to ask an inexperienced, 22-year-old defender to be the first choice right-back at a club as big as Manchester United, especially when playing in one of the most physical leagues in world football.
Standing at 1,73 meters and only weighing 70 kilograms, Rafael isn't the biggest right-back ever to play the game.
However the lack of physique is made up in his speed and willingness to make firm tackles.
The 2012/13 season proved to be a fruitful one for Rafael as he made massive strides in his development.
In previous seasons, he was often accused of diving into tackles and losing his temper, which often led to dismissals. However this past season, we saw a more cultured and mature player. He worked extremely well with Antonio Valencia during the course of the season, with both providing each other good service. When he does manage to get on the scoresheet, the goals are exceptional. His sumptuous volley at Loftus Road against Queens Park Rangers earlier this year and his stunning left-footed strike against Arsenal at the Emirates in the 2008/09 season spring to mind.
Having made 40 appearances in all competitions last season, he has come a long way his development since signing for The Red Devils from Fluminense in 2008.
To say that he is the best right-back in the league would be extreme - especially when being compared to the likes of Pablo Zabaleta of Manchester CIty and Glen Johnson of Liverpool, however with such an immense rate of growth in such a short space of time, he won't be too far off in the near future.
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