Manchester United defender Rafael surprised by his progress at Old Trafford

Rafael: The Brazilian right-back has been delighted with his progress at Manchester United this season

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Manchester United defender Rafael says he has been surprised by the number of appearances he has made for the Old Trafford club this season.

The Brazilian right-back has played in more first-team games this term than any other member of Sir Alex Ferguson's squad, featuring 21 times in all competitions.

He has been a key figure in United's climb to the top of the Premier League and their qualification for the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League.

But the 22-year-old, who joined United from Fluminense in 2008, admits he is exceeding his own pre-season expectations.

"I feel like I've developed and I want to play in every single game."

Rafael

"I start every season hoping to make an impression and play a lot of games, but I couldn't have imagined how well this season has gone for me," Rafael told Inside United.

"It's been great, and yes, I've been a little surprised to have played so many games.

"But I'm not a young player any more.

"I feel like I've developed and I want to play in every single game."

Targets

He added: "I've waited a long time for this - getting to this point hasn't happened overnight.

"I've been at this club for five years and that's a long time.

"At first, the goal was to just play one game for Manchester United. Then, when you achieve that, you set other targets.

"Now I want to play every game and become a regular in the team."

Rafael feels becoming a father has helped him progress on the pitch and also believes he has benefited from his twin brother Fabio leaving Old Trafford for QPR on a season-long loan.

"I think splitting from Fabio has been a good experience," said Rafael.

"At first I was sad, but I've come to see that it's made me grow up a lot. I've had to change and be more responsible."

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