When the Da Silva boys joined Manchester United, it was Fabio who came with the biggest reputation. He was the Brazil U-17 captain who cost slightly more than his brother.
However, it was Rafael we grew to love first. Whilst both aren’t the most robust, Fabio suffered more with injuries and when fit, had a better player to displace in Patrice Evra than Rafael did for right-back.
Rafael is a scrapper, who squared up to Carlos Tevez earlier this season, who got in trouble for reacting ferociously to an unjust sending off at White Hart Lane and was one of the few United players who looked up for it at Anfield a couple of weeks ago. I’m sure plenty of us have a soft spot for him, given how slight and young he is, he’s just a little lad, but the tenacity in him when on the pitch is something beyond his years and build. He’s like a little terrier, nipping at opposition wingers’ heels and then bounding forward when in possession. Gareth Bale and Samir Nasri, two players who have been tipped to be named Player of the Year, fitted nicely in to Rafael’s back pocket on their trips to Old Trafford in the league, with our youngster showing he’s more than capable of measuring up against the best.
Rafael has then made it easy for us to like Fabio, despite us not “knowing” him as well. He’s only played for us 9 times in the league and in all competitions, has 27 appearances, which is some way short of Rafael’s 39 league appearances and 68 in all competitions.
What is nice though, with their twin thing going on, is that both of them have scored two goals and the opposition for both is Wigan and Arsenal.
Rafael’s first goal for United came in our 2-1 defeat at the Emirates in 2008 when he first started to look like a genuine contender for our right-back position. He was a second half sub and looked the business before putting away a great effort. His second goal came over a year later in our 5-0 victory over Wigan last season.
Fabio hasn’t wasted so much time. There are just two weeks between his first goal against Wigan and his second against Arsenal yesterday. Both his goals were to do with positioning, being in the right place at the right time, so I’m sure there’s more to come.
Whilst we love these twins, it all could have been very different, as Arsenal approached them after United had shown an interest.
“The scout said he was from Arsenal and invited us to come and train,” Rafael said. “At that time we had already been to see Manchester United and train once with our club’s permission. But this man wanted to take us to England and say nothing to Fluminense. We disagreed with that principle. Fluminense was where we started, we had been there for years and they looked after us.”
Fabio was just as unimpressed with Arsenal’s tapping up.
“It was upsetting,” he said. “We could have signed there and then and taken all the money and Fluminense would have got nothing. But our mother said ‘No, Fluminense have been good to you. You went there when you were 11. I want you to do everything right’. So we said we would sign for Manchester as it would be the best thing for us and Fluminense. So we signed and ignored the man pushing Arsenal.”
Talented lads, a good moral compass and they’re just 20-years-old. We’ve got years in them yet, whether at full-back or on the wing. How lucky are we?
After Rooney put us 2-0 up yesterday, Rafael turned to the Stretford End and celebrated with our fans. “Come on!” he gestured, pumping his fists in the air. I love it.
Fabio deserves a start in a league game and Rafael should be our right-back, regardless of the experience John O’Shea brings to help Chris Smalling in Rio Ferdinand’s absence. They’re a cracking pair and I’m so glad they’re ours. They love playing for this club, they’re passionate, and they’ve hardly even started yet.
Viva Da Silvas!
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