Manchester United defender Rafael admits he faces a challenge to prove he is worthy of remaining in Louis van Gaal's side

No fewer than 14 players have moved on from the club since Van Gaal arrived

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The Independent Online

Rafael knows he must perform to the best of his ability if he is to extend his contract at Manchester United and realise his dream of staying at Old Trafford for the rest of his career.

Rafael joined United along with his twin brother Fabio from Brazilian club Fluminense in 2008.

His sibling may have been moved on to Cardiff, but Rafael became a first-team regular under Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes, and now the 24-year-old wants to impress new manager Louis van Gaal.

Van Gaal, who ruthlessly cut loose some of his fringe players in the transfer window, will have the final say on whether the right-back is worthy of an extension to his current contract, which is due to expire at the end of next season.

 

"I am glad I am still here, but sad because a lot of friends have left," Rafael told United Uncovered.

"I want to keep going and stay here forever, if possible.

"It depends on me to play well, I need to play well. I just want to stay here.

"I came here at 15-years-old so I have to say that I feel at home here.

"I can never say enough about this club. It is one of the best clubs in the world, if not the best in the world."

Although diminutive in size, Rafael's role at United has been a big one since Gary Neville hung up his boots in 2011.

Upon his retirement, the former England defender ear-marked Rafael as the man to succeed him in the right-back role he occupied at Old Trafford for over a decade.

Ferguson once said Rafael trained "like a beast", but the defender now has another role to play at the club - one of mentor.

He may be just 24, but Rafael thinks he has an important role to play in helping United's recent academy graduates and new signings settle in to the first-team squad.

"When I first came here, I saw how a lot of players helped me like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes," Rafael said.

"Gary Neville, even though he played in my position, helped me a lot because he was one of the best right-backs in the world.

"I want to do the same when I see some young players come in. Sometimes it's difficult so my job is to try to help them.

"Before, I saw some players arriving, foreign players, and they just cannot understand anything and I was exactly the same.

"Sometimes, I still want to say: 'What are they saying?' It's so hard and I try to help them because I know how difficult that is."

After recovering from a groin injury he suffered in pre-season, Rafael made his first appearance under Van Gaal last Sunday when United hammered QPR 4-0.

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The Red Devils will face better opposition this term, but the way in which Angel di Maria, Wayne Rooney and debutant substitute Radamel Falcao performed filled the United support with a sense of optimism that has been largely missing since Ferguson's reign ended in the summer of 2013.

Rafael won the Premier League three times under the Scot and he is desperate to bring the glory days back to Old Trafford as soon as possible.

"I want to win the league again and I want us to get the winning way back," he said.

"Then everything will be like it's always been at this club."

Van Gaal will look to record his second win on Sunday when United travel to Leicester.

The Foxes are one of the favourites for relegation, but Van Gaal has been impressed by the spirit they have shown so far this term.

"They have had some difficult games," the United boss said of the Premier League newcomers, who have taken five points from their opening four matches.

"For one hour against Chelsea away, it was 0-0, so I don't think it's an easy game.

"They were behind (against Arsenal) and they came back (to draw) so the character in their team is very good."

PA

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