Belfast Telegraph

Rafael wants United stay

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."

Defender Chris Smalling has recovered from a groin injury and is available for United, although Sam Johnstone (elbow), Phil Jones (hamstring), Ashley Young (groin), Michael Carrick (ankle), Jesse Lingard (knee), Marouane Fellaini (ankle) are out.

Reece James and James Wilson are unlikely to feature due to unspecified injuries, but left-back Luke Shaw could make his debut.

Boss Nigel Pearson has warned he is not at Leicester to be the players' friend - as Kasper Schmeichel seeks a recall.

The goalkeeper missed last week's 1-0 win at Stoke with a strained ligament but has recovered in time to face United.

Ben Hamer deputised to keep the Foxes' first clean sheet of the season meaning they go into Sunday's clash with United level on points.

But with almost a full squad to choose from, although United loanee Nick Powell is ineligible, Pearson must make tough choices.

He said: ''Kasper is 100 per cent, everyone else is available. It's great to have plenty of players to choose from. That's a better position to be in than have selection issues.

''I would rather have to make decisions, that's always a better situation to be here. I'm not here to be the players' friend.

''You can't keep everyone happy and the challenge is to try and keep people on side. Deep down they all know the rewards are there for us. We need to find the right way of getting the best out of our own players.

''The bottom line is we have a club that we are trying to maximise. It doesn't happen overnight. It has taken a while to get a group of people that share the same goals.

''You can't hide from the fact that if people are working in the right direction you have a better chance of succeeding.''

Esteban Cambiasso could start for Leicester after his impressive 45-minute outing in the win over Stoke last week.

The former Inter Milan midfielder is primed for a home debut after joining on a free transfer in the summer.

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