Amid speculation linking Rafael with a move away from Old Trafford, we compare the Brazilian to the Premier League's top right-backs.
The Brazilian defender is a surprise inclusion on the reported list, especially considering the squad's lack of defensive depth. Besides Rafael, the Red Devils are lacking a natural right-back. Phil Jones is capable of playing in this position, as is Antonio Valencia. However, both are far more comfortable in alternative positions.
Rafael missed his chance to impress his new boss, after injury cut his pre-season participation short. To his dismay, he was forced to return to England for treatment on a groin injury, ahead of the club's 3-2 victory over AS Roma.
While the Manchester outfit concluded their tour of the United States - after being crowned as the victors in the International Champions Cup - this latest niggle is perhaps the final nail in the coffin on Rafael's time at the club.
Having been told by Louis Van Gaal that he has no future at Old Trafford, he now looks set to make an exit. But is the Dutchman right to dismiss his services, or does he still have something to offer the club?
Below, using statistics from the previous season, we compare the Brazilian to the first-team right backs who featured for last season's top ten Premier League sides.
|Team||Acc Pass (%)||Pass /App||Acc Cross (%)||Chance /App||Dribble /App||Tackle /App||Intercept /App||Clear /App||App||Min|
|Pablo Zabaleta||Man City||84.69||46.66||12.99||0.97||0.20||2.63||2.00||2.40||35||3,079|
Should Van Gaal opt for a 5-3-2 system, as many are predicting, Rafael will be expected to burst up and down the right flank, mirroring the role played by left-sided full-back Luke Shaw. Naturally this system requires a dynamic player, capable in both attack and defence.
When it comes fulfilling his defensive duties, the Brazilian proves a safe bet. He ranks as a fairly average top ten defender in terms of the number of tackles, interceptions and clearances he managed in each match, although he is far from the league's best in each category.
Attacking-wise, he isn't quite as prolific. When matched-up against the division's more adventurous full-backs, Nathaniel Clyne, Seamus Coleman and Kyle Walker, for example, he creates far fewer chances. The statistics also highlight distinct deficiencies in his crossing ability.
Furthermore, his passing accuracy proved significantly inferior to the likes of Coleman, Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna, while the figures also reveal his passing frequency, which is noticeably lower than all, but one, of his top half rivals.
Last term Rafael was blighted by injury, and as a consequence, he experienced significantly fewer minutes than those he is compared to. Nonetheless, the statistics do little to boost his case. In fact, amongst those considered as the English top flight's best right-backs, he offers very little competition.
Unfortunately for the Brazilian, Van Gaal is unlikely to settle with a player capable of only 'mediocre' performances. To re-establish the Red Devils as genuine title contenders he'll be requiring a player who has significantly more to offer.
According to latest reports, Fiorentina's Juan Caudrado is being touted as the Old Trafford outfit's next summer signing. Capable of occupying either an attacking or defensive right-sided role, his arrival would likely signal an end to Rafael's Manchester United career.