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Friday, January 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Twins

In February 2007, Manchester United completed the deal to sign two talented teenage twins from Brazilian club Fluminese. One's name was Fabio, the other's was Rafael. Fabio played at Left Back, Rafael played at Right Back. They were to be the next Neville brothers; and they would have us covered in both full back positions for the next decade.

That last statement about them being similar to the Neville brothers, Phil and Gary, is fascinating. Fabio is in many ways like Phil Neville, and Rafael shares numerous similarities with Gary Neville. Let's start with Phil Neville and Fabio: Both primarily play at Left Back but can also play as a defensive midfielder, and both have been stuck behind top quality Left Backs who have kept them from gettng an extended run in the starting lineup (In Neville's case, it was Denis Irwin, and in Fabio's it is of course Patrice Evra). Comparing Rafael and Gary Neville brings out even more similarities. Both play at Right Back, both have a fiesty temper and a tendency to frequently pick up cards, both became first choice right backs within the first 2-3 seasons at the club, and both have even had a run-in with Carlos Tevez.

There will no doubt be comparisons between the two sets of brothers as both da Silva twins make their way into United's first XI, however it is even more intriguing to see the stark contrast in the pathways Fabio and Rafael have been presented with since arriving at Old Trafford.

For Fabio, it's been a frustrating one, as he has been limited to just 6 appearances for the first team due to both the consistency and the experience of arguably the best Left Back in the world, Patrice Evra. In addition to this, he also suffered from a shoulder injury early on in his time here. Fabio will no doubt get his chance soon enough, and he will be a great player for the future, but for now it's a frustrating waiting game.

Things are different, however, for his brother Rafael. With the competition around him consisting of players not quite of the same standard as Evra, Rafael has been given a number of opportunities to prove himself as being worthy of being the first choice Right Back, especially in season 2010/11. He's played in numerous important matches, such as the Champions League fixture against Bayern Munich last season (in which he was of course red carded), and important games against teams such as Arsenal, Spurs and City. It's clear that Rafael is already established as perhaps our first choice Right Back.

It's interesting to note that at the time when the two signed on for United, Fabio was rated as a more promising player than Rafael. Whilst in the early stages, Rafael has been given more opportunities, Fabio still has time on his side. 

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