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Weekend Premier League predictions

Premier League
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By ESPN Staff

Rafael artistry gives Fergie selection headache

Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed Brazilian teenager Rafael Da Silva is now an integral part of his first-team squad.

The 18-year-old came to the United Kingdom in January along with twin brother Fabio and fellow countryman Rodrigo Possebon.

Although Fabio is currently recovering from a shoulder operation, Rafael and Possebon have made encouraging appearances at senior level this season.

In fact, Rafael has been handed starts against Aalborg and West Bromwich Albion over the past couple of weeks as Ferguson looked to discover how far the youngster had progressed.

The answers have been positive, leaving the United boss to accept he has another selection dilemma on his hands with club captain Gary Neville and Wes Brown also vying for the position.

"In football, when a guy turns the corner you cannot do anything about it," he said.

"Rafael is a great talent and his performances are telling me I have another problem at right-back."

At Champions League level, Aalborg did not offer much of a threat, leaving Rafael to attack down the right flank at will.

Saturday's clash with West Brom was somewhat different. While the result was eventually quite one-sided, the Baggies gave a decent account of themselves during the first half.

The pace and power of West Brom winger Chris Brunt provided Rafael with a tough examination of his talent, which is just what Ferguson wanted to see; a reminder of the task a similarly-aged Brown faced against Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink when he encountered Leeds a decade ago.

"Wes himself came in at 18, played against Hasselbaink in his first game against Leeds and he was superb," said Ferguson.

"It is a learning process playing against that power and experience. Premier League football is not easy.

"I didn't realise how big Brunt was and what a nice left foot he had, so that presented a challenge for Rafael.

"For periods in the game he was finding his way and it was only when I was going to take him off that he started to play the way we know he can."

In the 10 minutes that followed, Rafael offered yet another indication he will not be kept out of the United first team for long, despite his tender years.

"He was excellent," said Ferguson.

"The positions he took up and the penetration from deep positions was absolutely superb.

"It gives me a selection problem that is good for the club."

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