6 clearances, 4 aerial duels won - Unlikely hero shines for Man United

Rafael 2

After a poor performance against Liverpool on Sunday, Rafael returned to his best in Europe.

His head simply wasn't in the game against Manchester United's great rivals. He may have had a reason - but that won't bring the points back for David Moyes' men.

A different day brought a different outcome, though, and against Olympiakos on Wednesday night, the Brazilian was outstanding.

As United kept a clean sheet and, more importantly, progressed to the last eight of the Champions League, no one had better defensive statistics than Rafael.

Indeed, statistics from WhoScored.com show that the 23-year-old was, quite simply, a rock for his side. No one made more interceptions and no one took more touches, while only Wayne Rooney made more tackles.

Rafael contributed going forward, too, completing two successful dribbles and making one key pass. And the full-back was also dominant in the air, winning four aerial duels, the second-highest tally of any United player.

At the back, meanwhile, Rafael made four interceptions, won four tackles and made six clearances - only Phil Jones (8) cleared more.

Compare that to the Brazilian's performance against Liverpool on Sunday and you have a completely different player.

Whatever Moyes told his players last night - or whether it was a combination of Ryan Giggs and various other senior players - it worked. Rafael and Jones were watertight at the back and the likes of Joel Campbell and Alejandro Dominguez was left subdued.

Now bigger challenges await Man United, however, with Rafael and co. likely to be up against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben and more. Whoever they draw, there'll be a world-class player standing opposite them.

That's the only reward for glory at the highest level: the chance to achieve even more - or get knocked out trying.

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