Sir Alex Ferguson has claimed Manchester United have England's best two right-backs - but neither of them are his first choice any more.
Wes Brown was picked by England boss Fabio Capello for seven of his 10 games in charge during 2008 while Gary Neville has yet to feature under the Italian due to injury but already has 85 caps to his name.
But the form of Rafael Da Silva means Ferguson cannot guarantee either man a place in his team and the United boss said: "Gary Neville and Wes Brown are England's best right full-backs. I would not have any fear about picking them because I know them. But Fabio does not know them as well as I do, which makes it difficult because if they are not getting a regular game for us, it is hard for him to pick them."
In being so honest about the present situation, Ferguson inadvertently raised doubts over whether Neville and Brown, both United men to the core, can continue to hang around as understudy to an 18-year-old.
While Neville, who has been linked with a move to Everton where he would join brother Phil, may feel, at 33, he was about to reach a stage in his career where he cannot play every game anyway, Brown, who is supposed to be in his prime, may have other ideas.
Although he only signed a contract extension late last season, when he won Premier League and Champions League winners' medals after excelling as Neville's deputy, the Longsight-born star will want more football than he looks set to be given thanks to Rafael's dynamic form and may need to move away from Old Trafford.
"Gary and Wes have a little problem because this young boy Rafael has really taken off," said Ferguson.
"All the players, Gary included, are so supportive of him. They think he is fantastic.
"It is rare for someone to come through like he has done. When Gary did it, he had help. He was amongst six or seven young players all together, like a band of brothers.
"This lad doesn't speak the language that well but he understands the football very well."
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