Date:31st May 2010 at 9:23pm
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This is the first in a series of looks at young players in our team that could make a name for themselves next season. Having lost our crown to Chelsea, next season will be important and I expect some of our younger players to step up to the plate and meet the challenge of getting our crown back head on.

The first player I will consider is Rafael, a player I have looked at frequently and with good reason.

The young Brazilian has had an eventful season, from shutting down and shutting out one of the world’s best players in Franck Ribery to getting sent off for a cynical foul in the same game on the same player, that game showed us the best and worst of the right back.

He has steadily been getting experience under his belt and may soon be ready to cement the right back spot as his own. Gary Neville is entering what could be his last season and with Wes Brown continually suffering injuries, Rafael’s stiffest opposition comes from John O’Shea.

Rafael has shown he can defend as well as get forward but there are chinks in his armour that are mainly due to inexperience, case in point being the goal we conceded against Spurs at Old Trafford where he moved away from his position on the post, the exact place Ledley King placed his header.

Like Fabio he has a habit of getting caught short and then pulling down the player that has got the better of him but with experience and better positional sense these things will happen less and less and having a class defender like Gary Neville to learn from will see these things ironed out sooner rather than later so I’m not majorly worried.

Mentally he has shown he can stand up in big games and was starring in the 2nd leg of the Champions League tie against Bayern until he got sent off. He didn’t look over awed by the occasion and even had the confidence the burst forward and take a shot himself when he had Rooney and others in the box.

To me he has shown he has the components it’s just a case of smoothing the rough edges.

Next season will be a big one for Rafael, I don’t expect him to cement his place straight away especially with John O’Shea back in contention but when he gets his chance he will grab it and could secure the position permanently.

Next: Darron Gibson