Updates from Sunday, Sept. 21
Manchester United @ManUtd
United XI: De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Blackett, Rojo, Blind, Herrera, Di Maria, Falcao, Rooney, van Persie #MUFClive http://t.co/jD3m76VBuB2014-9-21 11:30:03
Updates from Sept. 9
Rafael da Silva confirmed on Instagram he has returned to training. "5 years a go young skinny rafael good memories. Back in training ready to help. Let's goo," he stated.
Updates from Friday, Aug. 15
Manchester United's official Twitter feed has good news regarding Rafael:
Rafael da Silva is out of Manchester United's tour of the USA, and the Brazilian has returned to England for treatment on a groin injury.
It leaves Louis van Gaal without a specialist right-back for the rest of the pre-season tour, but the player's physical condition dictated that he must return to Manchester.
Richard Tanner of the Daily Star quoted a United spokesman saying:
As he was unlikely to participate in the remaining tour games, returning home affords the best overall option for his recovery in time to continue pre-season preparation when the team returns.
Rafael joins Michael Carrick on the sidelines for the Red Devils; the England international was injured before United jetted out to the USA and never made the flight.
The injury to Rafael will cause complications to LvG as he tries to implement a new 5-3-2 system to overhaul the issues of the past 12 months at Old Trafford.
The progressive nature of the 24-year-old would have been perfect for the new United coach, but he will now likely be forced to choose Antonio Valencia in the wing-back position.
Rafael's injury problems have been continuous throughout the past year. Despite being recognised as first choice—receiving Gary Neville's No. 2 jersey after his retirement—he has constantly spent extended periods on the touchline, unavailable for selection.
Last season, the player only managed 19 appearances for United in the Premier League, per WhoScored.com, as United's defence faltered under the leadership of David Moyes.
This lack of availability is sure to worry Van Gaal as he builds for the immediate future and might mean that Valencia is given the role on a full-time basis.
However, the injury also highlights United's need for investment in this transfer window with a lack of specialist coverage across the squad.
Football writer Samuel Luckhurst highlighted this when he tweeted:
Despite his initial potential, Rafael is now a liability to United. He is a full-back blessed with aggression and skill, but his injury issues are far too frequent. He is constantly cut down with muscle strains, something also suffered by his twin brother, Fabio.
Rafael is a potential leader for LvG and United, but it is unlikely he will stay fit enough to be relied upon. Valencia has had his position on the wing taken away from him by Van Gaal's new 5-3-2 formation, but he may now have a stay of execution, with the right wing-back position up for grabs.
Valencia had played as a full-back before his arrival at Wigan, and his first-team opportunities will now be greatly increased with the recent news regarding Rafael. He has the power and pace to support the forward play, but there are definite concerns about his defensive attributes.
He is not a natural defender, and though his work rate keeps him in the correct positions, he might become exposed by opponents. However, with three centre-backs in the team, Valencia could have the cover he needs to cement his place and become an asset.