Manchester United cult hero Rafael da Silva has lifted the lid on the explosive nature of the rivalry between his former club and historical rivals Liverpool.
When the Brazilian was at the club, United were hunting down Liverpool’s status as the most successful team in English league history. He and Fabio arrived in 2008 and by the end of their first season they were celebrating United’s 18th league title, which drew them level with Liverpool’s record.
The animosity from the Merseyside club reached fever pitch in the following years as Liverpool – United’s main challengers in 2009 – dropped off the pace. By the time United went to Liverpool in March 2011, United were closing in on winning their 19th championship, pushing them one in front of their main foes.
The game was played with a foul temper and has been immortalised by the image of Rafael confronting a group of Liverpool players – the youngster was incensed by an injury to his team-mate Nani earlier in the game.
In his new book The Sunshine Kids – Rafael’s autobiography with his brother Fabio – the full-back explains how heated the rivalry had become.
“Without Rio and Nemanja, we went to Anfield,” Rafael says. “This was a place where we were hated all of the time anyway but there was a little extra in this game because we were competing for the club’s 19th league title.”
“Liverpool were nowhere near it, so this was their best chance of beating us. The atmosphere was as you would expect… The intensity, as it always does, comes down from the stands on to the pitch. You don’t just go there thinking the fans hate you. Everyone detests you if you play for Manchester United. Their players detest you.”
Liverpool were 2-0 up heading into the break when the flashpoint occurred.
“Just before half-time, Jamie Carragher goes in on Nani with one of the worst tackles you’ve ever seen on a pitch,” Rafael recalls. “It’s disgraceful. You can see the bone in his shin, the blood pouring from his leg. I didn’t see the tackle at the time but I saw the aftermath. And he’s not even sent off. Unbelievable.”
The incident instigated the famous image of Rafael fired up. “You look for retribution in that situation, you need to get your frustration out, and I flew into a tackle on Lucas Leiva (who became one of my closest friends in football). I’m booked, the same punishment as Carragher!”
“Against Liverpool, you tackle for fun, you tackle for no reason. I love it. In this game it was like the referee was saying we could do what we wanted. So I thought, I’ll test it out. Manchester United against Liverpool is like street boxing. You don’t have gloves, don’t have rules. Go. Fight. It’s like that.”
In The Sunshine Kids Rafael also explains how the ill-feeling between the clubs exploded the following season when Luis Suarez racially abused Patrice Evra.
The Sunshine Kids is published TODAY. It’s out now. You can order your copy now on Amazon for just £13.09 – a saving of 33%.
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