Every United fan has their favourite player in the squad. For some, it’s Robin van Persie, the man who gave Alex Ferguson a fitting send-off, and who made Wayne Rooney look like the waste of skin he is. For others, it’s Rooney himself, seeking to prove that running about a lot for a whole match will adequately replace things like a first touch, creativity, or being able to pass over a distance over longer than 10 yards. For yet others, it’s Michael Carrick, and to that, you would have to say that life is a rich tapestry, and the best thing about democracy and freedom is speech is that it allows them to say stuff like that without being imprisoned. For the connoseur, there is only one option, and that is Rafael Da Silva, a god amongst men. There are countless reasons to love and be in love with the man, but here’s a top 5:
Standing up to Liverpool #1
When Jamie Carragher opened up Luis Nani’s leg at Anfield, a lot of us felt that Nani would be best served by flaying the immobile defender as an example to the rest of the opposition. Instead, he chose a slightly different option and burst into tears. Now, just take a look at this man experiencing worse, and dealing with it in the appropriate manner:
The referee, disgracefully, did not send off Carragher, but instead of simply remonstrating at the unfairness of it all, Rafael took action. Rafael stood up. Rafael proved himself to be the greatest player at United of this decade. Rafael saw Lucas Leiva and decided to introduce his boot into his limbs, and risk a red card.
Now that is the appropriate response to a tackle from a shithouse. Speaking of shithouses…
Another reason to treasure our Brazilian is how he felt about our erstwhile Argentine. For a while, Tevez was a spark that complemented Ronaldo and Rooney, taking United to Champions League and Premier League triumph. After that, his adviser/keeper Kia Joorabchian decided it would cost about £50 million to keep him. With slightly less impressive performances towards the end of his stay, he was let go and joined City, welcomed to Manchester with a remarkably dignified banner.
Tevez, with his bronca, had always appeared fiery, if not necessarily ever proving whether or not he had the fortitude to back it up. So when Tevez and Rafael went for a loose ball, Tevez decided that he would try it on with our beautiful boy, and he came off looking like a chump. Rafael rattled him, obviously losing his temper and simultaneously channeling it against his opponent. When the referee interrupts to break up the fight, Tevez looks genuinely relieved. Enjoy it all again here:
Gareth Bale is an excellent player and he has made a hugely impressive start to his career at Real Madrid, and is a player who would have excelled at United (if David Moyes didn’t stick him on the bench with Shinji Kagawa). Rafael is better though. That might be factually incorrect, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s Rafael.
Standing up to Liverpool #2
Losing to Liverpool is worse than losing a limb, or finding out that the bread is really mouldy when you’re incredibly hungry and are jonesing for tinned spaghetti on toast. Yes, it is that bad. Liverpool are a special club, after all. While they display a classic sense of humour by, so the stories go, flinging handfuls of human shit at the United fans, and trying to push over the ambulance taking Alan Smith to hospital, they also win with all the magnanimity you’d expect (note, the crowing in victory is actually understandable, just infuriating when you’re on the end of it).
Last season, United went to Liverpool needing a victory. One, because as Alan Partridge says, just to have a positive. And two, because there was the important business of winning a league, something that Liverpool used to do, and then forgot about for more than two decades and counting. So when Liverpool scored, United fans felt the soil falling over their head. Until Royinho of the Rovers took matters in hand, and scored – no exaggeration – genuinely the most technically demanding and most culturally important goal of all time.
Rafael in Van Persie’s arms, a dejected Pepe Reina (best ‘keeper in the world, apparently) – it doesn’t get better.
Standing up to Liverpool, the Ku Klux Klan, and the whole concept of racism
There are things we can be sure of in life. Luis Suarez racially abused Patrice Evra and then Liverpool and many of its fans decided to rationalise, deny and excuse racism, and some even decided to indulge in it too. How charming, and how utterly surprising. The first game after the report was in the FA Cup, and United lost to a late Andy Carroll goal. Kill me. But then came the game against Liverpool when Suarez and Evra would meet for the first time after the racist Luis Suarez was back from his suspension for being a racist. Tension wasn’t present, so much and seething hatred was everywhere. It was what football is all about.
Some normally calm people found themselves screaming ‘FUCK OFF,’ into the face of a Liverpool fan in the pub, for example.
As we all know now, United won, and Luis Suarez, who had racially abused Patrice Evra the last time they met, also refused to shake his hand in the pre-game ritual. Evra decided that now was the time to properly celebrate, brilliantly and conspicuously crossing his path to enjoy the adulation of the crowd, to see him taunting, and to see him lose his temper. And who else was there? You know who else was there: