Manchester United’s defence has been criticised left, right and centre, and one of the defenders who has come in for more flake than others is Rafael da Silva.
The Brazil international right-back has long been hailed as the successor to Gary Neville at United, but he has not progressed and developed as much as one would have wanted him to.
At 24, Rafael still has time but this season could be his make-or-break at Old Trafford. He was reportedly one of the players who was going to leave in the summer transfer window, but manager Louis van Gaal seemingly has faith in him.
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But Martin Keown does not. Following United’s shocking 5-3 defeat to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium in the Premier League last weekend, the former Arsenal defender described him as ‘unreliable’.
‘Rafael is particularly guilty’, the former England international defender wrote in the Daily Mail. ‘Too often he’s involved in goals United concede and too often he is unreliable. He has played 158 times for United so he’s experienced but he needs to learn fast'.
Former Leicester City and Derby County midfielder Robbie Savage, who now works as a BBC pundit, is of the same opinion.
‘For me, Rafael is a liability, an accident waiting to happen’, the former Wales international wrote in The Mirror. ‘People say he was barged unfairly by Vardy before Leicester’s first penalty, but when did you ever see Gary Neville shoved off the ball like that?’
Rafael is indeed not one of the best defenders in the Premier League. Although his performances are good from time to time, he has yet to show any concrete sign that he will become the ‘next Gary Neville’.
Perhaps it is unfair to the Brazilian to put him under so much pressure, but at 24 he is not exactly young and his development over the past few years has not really been great.
The 2014-15 season could prove to Rafael’s last as a United player if he does not step up his game.