Date: 14th July 2011 at 12:26pm
Written by:

Rafael and Tevez

"Don't call me Fabio!"

An exciting time for United has seen young centre back Phil Jones arrive to set up a potential future defensive pairing of him and Chris Smalling who is proving to be a hot prospect.

Javier Hernandez has also given fans reason to be excited about the future of United’s frontline attack. The acquisition of David De Gea shortly after that of Phil Jones hopefully gives United a solid first choice keeper for years to come. Yet one of the most exciting aspects of the United team comes in a pair, an identical pair in fact.

Brazilian twins Fabio and Rafael Da Silva arrived in 2008 after a deal was agreed in 2007. Rafael was the first to be given substantial amounts of playing time due to him being seen as the predominantly right sided of the two and a fill-in was needed for Wes Brown and Gary Neville who were being hit by recurring injuries.

Rafael appeared to be a clumsy defender whose rash challenges and tendency to roam forward leaving gaps made him look like a very shaky replacement for the previously solid Brown and Neville. However whilst the young right back gave reason for questioning as a defender he gave United something they did not previously have. Attack from the back.

Whilst Neville would sometimes contribute in attacks through overlapping the wide midfielder to give them an option he was not as attacking minded as Rafael. The first displays of Rafael portrayed him as a frustrated winger. He could burst forward from the back and run with the ball down the flank and look to pick out a pass, cross or even try to run into the box.

As the season went on Rafael showed signs of maturing as a defender and whilst still lunging in to rash challenges and picking up the odd booking he became a more solid choice at right back.

Brother Fabio also began to gain more playing time. A fill-in for Evra if needed, Fabio looked a bit more reserved than his twin brother in that he did not lunge in to challenges quite the same. Yet still Fabio did show signs of being a solid defender and also ventured forward, although seeming to choose his opportunities more rationally than Rafael. Fabio also got the nod to fill the right back role ahead of his brother at times, maybe being preferred due to him seeming less likely to pick up bookings. However Rafael’s sometimes unruly style of play adds to his defensive capabilities as he emerges as a type of player who you sometimes just have to accept may pick up bookings. This is not by a long way a bad trait to have in a team.

One highlight of the twin’s explosive start to their career at United was the FA Cup Quarter-final tie against Arsenal last season. The surprising line up saw the two manning the flanks. Fabio left winger and Rafael right. A supposedly weakened United team shone in a 2-0 victory with massive help from the twins. They both showed their attacking capabilities proving as the main source of attacking movements throughout the game. Fabio even grabbed himself a goal.

Possibly the most exciting part of United’s future is that of the Brazilian twins. They have both proven they can compete at a top level and whilst not being a typical defensive full back provide United with a new style of attack from the back line. The versatility they showed by playing on the wings against Arsenal gives an added bonus of being able to fully control the two flanks between the two of them. Can the twins give United a new look to their play?

Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TomDTweets

Or read my Blog at http://www.itssqueakybumtime.blogspot.com/