Louis van Gaal's treatment of former defender Rafael behind Manchester United players' anger at manager

Rafael was sold to Lyon in the summer despite being a popular and long-serving member of the squad

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The sale of Rafael during the summer is believed to have been the cause of the row between leading Manchester United squad members and manager Louis van Gaal, with players also angry at the prominence given to video analyst Max Reckers by the Dutchman.

Rafael was sold to Lyon in August after being exiled from the first-team squad during Van Gaal’s debut season at Old Trafford. The Brazilian, who made just 11 appearances in all competitions last season, spent seven successful years with the Premier League club, but was deemed surplus to requirements by Van Gaal and sold for the rather low fee of £2.5m to the French side.

Having seen his place in the first team go to natural winger Antonio Valencia despite starting the season as first choice, Rafael had to make do with a place on the bench from October onwards, with the Brazilian starting just one game during the rest of the season which came in the FA Cup victory over Yeovil in January.


Having made his final appearance for the club in the 3-0 victory over Tottenham in March, Rafael was selected among the substitutes just four times in the remainder of the season, and his failure to appear on the team sheet from mid-April onwards spelled the end to his career in Manchester.

However, the decision to sell Rafael is believed to have angered certain squad members which reportedly led to captain Wayne Rooney and midfielder Michael Carrick approach Van Gaal to try and solve the growing discontent among the dressing room.

Rafael was a popular figure among the United squad, having helped the club to three Premier League title and two Champions League finals in 2009 and 2011.

His exit paved the way for United to make a move for former Torino right-back Matteo Darmian, who has been one of United’s standout summer signings so far this season having taken very little time to adapt to the club. But the departure of Rafael is believed to have been just one example of Van Gaal’s tough stance with players, with goalkeepers David De Gea and Victor Valdes exiled from the squad so far this season while former striker Robin van Persie was sold to Fenerbahce despite United having just two recognised strikers in Rooney and youngster James Wilson.

Rooney has spoken to Van Gaal over the discontent

Rooney and Carrick – United’s captain and vice-captain respectively – are also believed to have voiced concerns regarding the role of video analyst Reckers.

The Dutch analyst has been given a prominence among the United staff after Van Gaal brought him in to highlight strengths and weaknesses of opponents as well as assessing the performances of United’s squad.

Players are said to have grown tired of long video sessions and the emphasis switching to formation and tactics. With a number of Spanish players such as Juan Mata and Ander Herrera in the squad, it’s felt that the flair element developed under Sir Alex Ferguson and, to a lesser degree, David Moyes, has been removed from their training sessions.