Man Utd face Liverpool in the Capital One Cup at Old Trafford and David Moyes will be eager to show he can bounce back from his team’s bracing 4-1 loss at Man City with a win at odds of 11/10.
However, with reports coming out of Brazil that Red Devils defender Rafael is keen to return to his native country ahead of next summer’s World Cup the Scot may also have to sharpen up his powers of persuasion at his new club.
Rafael has been a star performer since becoming first choice right-back three years ago and appeared in over 35 games in all competitions for the champions last term, but has failed to grab the attentions of national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, nor his predecessor Mano Menezes.
Competition for right-back places in the Selecao is fierce, with Barcelona’s Dani Alves currently untouchable in the side and Porto youngster Danilo often chosen ahead of the United man as cover.
Losing the ball before Mexico’s first goal in Brazil’s 2-1 2012 Olympic final defeat has not helped Rafael’s cause and he has made just two appearances at full international level, since debuting against Denmark in May of the same year.
Now it seems there is an opportunity to gain more exposure in his home country by joining top Brasileirao side Corinthians ahead of this summer’s festivities and with the player reportedly open to moving, Moyes must act fast to ensure he does not lose one of his side’s creative sparks.
United have been forced to play centre-halves Phil Jones and Chris Smalling at right-back in Rafael’s absence and while they may add physicality to the defence neither has the same impact going forward as the Brazilian.
Jones did not create one goalscoring opportunity in three league games for United this season before picking up an injury whereas Rafael created 24 chances in his 28 top flight games last season, with three of those key passes ending up as goals.
He also got on the scoresheet three times and offers more coming out of defence than his replacements, starting many of the champions’ attacks from around the halfway line last term and linking passes between forwards Wayne Rooney and Antonio Valencia.
The player is due to return from injury next month and Moyes has to find a way of showcasing Rafael’s talent that is beneficial to United’s play while convincing him that United – and the Champions League – is the place to be to boost his World Cup chances.