Fabio's Slide at Manchester United Is Proof That Nurture Wins over Nature

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentJanuary 24, 2014

LEIGH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02:   Fabio Da Silva of Manchester United U21 during the Barclays U21 Premier League match between Blackburn U21 and Manchester United U21 at  Leigh Stadium on December 02, 2013 in Leigh, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Fabio da Silva's career at Manchester United is a cautionary tale.

It starts in 2008 with an eager teenager whose dream to become a star takes him from Brazil to England. It follows his journey as he tries to break into the first team at one of the biggest football clubs in the world, Manchester United.

As in any story, the protagonist has to beat the odds, and injury restricts Fabio to a couple of appearances in the FA Cup during his first season. 

But then begins his rise to the top. He makes his Premier League debut against Birmingham in August 2009 and scores his first goal for United against Wigan in February 2011.

And it seems he's finally made it in May that year when he's chosen to start the Champions League final against Barcelona.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28:  Luis Antonio Valencia of Manchester United (L) and teammate Fabio da Silva  (C) look on as Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona (R) takes a shot during the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wem
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

But since that night, it's been downhill ever since. And two-and-a-half years after marking Lionel Messi at Wembley, his contract at Old Trafford is six months away from expiring. Now he's being linked with a move away according to the Daily Mirror's Alan Nixon. His stock has fallen that far.

Usually it would be a story of what might have been. United fans would speculate about how good he could have been had he not suffered a series of injuries or if his loan spell at QPR had worked out better.

But they don't have to. Like the before and after pictures in a weight-loss advert, Fabio has a mirror image as proof of what might have been. What might still be.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 18:  Fabio Da Silva (L) and Rafael Da Silva during the Barclays Premier League Match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United at Molineux on March 18, 2012 in Wolverhampton, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Gett
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Fabio's twin Rafael has had better luck with injuries and has benefited from more first-team football. And while Fabio has slipped into the shadows, Rafael has established himself as United's first-choice right-back. Still only 23, he could have the job for another 10 years.

The differing fortunes of the Da Silva twins is evidence that for young players, talent alone is not enough. Fabio arrived at Old Trafford with a reputation as the "better twin" after starring for Brazil at the 2007 U-17 World Cup.

But whenever he makes a rare appearance for the first team, now the only thing that stands out is how much his development has been stunted. He rushes around, diving into challenges just like his brother used to four years ago. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05:  Fabio of Manchester United reacts following his red-card challenge on Jose Canas of Swansea City during the FA Cup with Budweiser Third round match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford on January 5,
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

It got him sent off against Swansea in his last game. It could end up being his last for the club.

Young players coming through at Old Trafford can learn a lot from the Da Silva twins. Rafael is proof that there is a pathway from youth team to first team. But Fabio's career progression is evidence that you need more than talent to succeed—that nurture wins over nature every time.