Club Focus – Manchester United – Injury to Rafael highlights Brazilian’s importance in Blackpool victory

Manchester United remain unbeaten after coming from two goals down against Blackpool but there was concern over right-back Rafael who was stretchered off midway through the second half fitted with a neck brace. The young Brazilian has become part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s first choice back four but was substituted after challenging for the ball against Marlon Harewood while his twin Fabio looked on with concern.

It was confirmed after the match that Rafael suffered a concussion and that the oxygen and other apparatus attached to him as he left the field was merely precautionary. He was taken to a Blackpool hospital for a scan which will indicate how long he will be side-lined. The neck brace raised fears of a spinal injury but if it is concussion then the marauding defender should return to action within a matter of weeks depending on the severity.

The prospect of a long-term injury merely served to highlight how important Rafael has become to the league leaders. Given the fixture list United have in the coming months, which features a run of Manchester City, Olympique de Marseille, Wigan Athletic, Chelsea, Liverpool and Marseille again it is vital United have as much of their squad available as possible and Rafael in particular will be crucial if the unbeaten run it to last through such a difficult period. Once again the injury-prone Rio Ferdinand was not able to play and was replaced by Chris Smalling. However, aside from the England captain Antonio Valencia is the only serious injury concern for United.

Critics will suggest that this was another performance where United gained three points while not being particularly on form. During the first half Blackpool were the dominant side and scored twice from Charlie Adam corners. However the introduction of Ryan Giggs at half time altered the flow of the game and Dimitar Berbatov managed to snatch a brace away from home which will particularly please after being accused of not performing away from Old Trafford. Javier Hernandez bagged the equaliser with a smooth finish after being put through by Giggs. The diminutive Mexican has impressed in the cameo appearances that he has made for the club and is pressing for a starting place. With Wayne Rooney not scoring as he did last season and Ferguson playing 4-4-2 more regularly than in recent years it could be a good bet that Chicharito’s form will be rewarded.

Looking forward to the next game and after a long and gruelling run of fixtures Ferguson will probably rest several senior players against Southampton in the FA Cup. Although he has stated that the cup is a priority this year after being beaten early on by rivals Leeds United last season, it still seems likely that players such as Giggs and Berbatov will be given a breather and replaced by youngsters like Bebe or Hernandez.

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