Although Fabio was initially signed as a left back and Rafael signed as a right back, Sir Alex Ferguson see’s Patrice Evra as his first choice left back so with United’s lack of a first choice right back since the long injury and subsequent retirement of skipper Gary Neville, it appears the two will go head to head for the spot.
The twins were signed in February 2007; however neither made their senior debut until August 2008 when Rafael played against Newcastle at Old Trafford. Fabio would have to wait for his chance as he had an on going shoulder injury which prevented him making his first team debut until an F.A Cup tie at home against Tottenham Hotspur and that was it has seemingly been like that ever since with Rafael always ahead of his brother and Barcelona even sniffing around him, seeing him as the long term replacement for Dani Alves.
With Rafael making 72 appearances compared to Fabio’s 37 it is only recently that Fabio appears to have caught and over taken his brother in selection terms and he was even preferred to his brother in the Champions League final against Barcelona.
The twins are very similar (coincidently they have both scored 2 senior goals against the same two teams; Arsenal away and Wigan Athletic at home for Rafael and Wigan Athletic away and Arsenal at home for Fabio); they both play the game at a high tempo forever advancing forward to join in with any United attack yet carrying out their defensive duties diligently.
They have both been accused of being rash and hot-headed with neither afraid of putting a tackle in thus both have questions over their discipline. Fabio saw red at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Carling Cup in 2009 whilst Rafael has been sent off twice on both occasions for 2 yellow cards the first and most notably in the Champions League against Bayern Munich and more recent away to Tottenham Hotspur.
Following the red card against Bayern Munich it was felt that Rafael had come on leaps and bounds and was slowly cutting the rashness and overt aggression out of his game but it still rears it’s head occasionally. It is felt that Fabio is the less rash of the two and that is perhaps part of the reason why he has been favoured ahead of Rafael recently, including against Barcelona where there was a big chance that their style of play as well as play acting could have seen Rafael carded or even sent off.
In the F.A Cup Semi Final against Everton in 2009 the twins would make the first of many starts together, they did the same this season against Arsenal in the FA Cup although as wingers where they combined superbly to help United to a 2-0 victory and there is nothing to say this can’t happen more frequently in defence.
This season wasn’t Patrice Evra’s best and with both twins constantly improving, one will inevitably make the right back spot there’s whilst the other, more likely than not Fabio, will be pushing Evra for his place in the team and if he isn’t up to the task he can expect to find himself on the bench.
The twins have matured so much under the experienced guidance of Sir Alex, week in week out they repay the faith put in them with excellent performances which helped United win the League for a record breaking 19th time.
And this coming season won’t be any different; both are a year more experienced, a year more mature and have the goal of a starting spot in the team to fight towards. So whether they are fighting for the same right back spot or for the full back position it is exciting to see their continuing development.
Blog courtesy of Chris Wormald