Brazilians Abroad: Rafael on Form for Manchester United

Christopher AtkinsContributor IFebruary 11, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 26:  Rafael of Manchester United in action during the FA Cup with Budweiser Fourth Round match between Manchester United and Fulham at Old Trafford on January 26, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Manchester United full-back Rafael da Silva was the star of the show in a comfortable 2-0 victory over Everton at Old Trafford, combining robust defensive play with a constant attacking intent.

The Olympic silver medallist has come on leaps and bounds this season with only minor blips interspersing what has been a genuinely impressive campaign for the 22-year-old—now playing separate from his brother.

Awarded Sky Sports' Man of the Match trophy by his predecessor at right-back, Gary Neville, Rafael's most telling contribution was a classy outside of the foot through ball to supply striker Robin van Persie for his side's second goal of the evening.

On Saturday, Chelsea returned to winning ways with a 4-1 victory over Wigan thanks, in part, to a goal from midfielder Ramires. The former Cruzeiro player opened the scoring in the 23rd minute and was joined in midfield by compatriots Oscar and David Luiz—all of whom enjoyed successful afternoons.

It was not such a good day, though, for Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Júlio César who conceded four goals and showed signs that he was playing while injured. Manager Harry Redknapp post-match that admitted his goalkeeper was suffering from a groin problem, but it was too late for his defeated side.

In Spain, Thiago Alcantara was in fine form for Barcelona as they overcame Getafe 6-1 at the Camp Nou in Sunday's early kick-off. Although he has chosen to represent Spain, both Thiago's father and brother have represented Brazil at either senior or youth level.

The former Flamengo youngster was outstanding throughout, with the Catalan side playing without Cesc Fabregas, Xavi and Sergio Busquets for the encounter. Linking play well alongside Andres Iniesta, Thiago made two assists to supply both Lionel Messi and Gerard Piqué with goals as the Catalans ran riot. Adriano also appeared at right-back for Los Cules.

Meanwhile, in Madrid, fallen Brazilian star Kaká was handed a rare start against Sevilla, with several players given well earned rests ahead of their side's midweek Champions League tie with Manchester United.

Kaká would play nearly 70 minutes of his side's 4-1 victory, supplying the pass for Cristiano Ronaldo's opening goal of an impressive hat-trick. He would eventually be replaced by another Brazilian in naturalised Portugal defender Pepe.

Granada are another side showing impressive form, winning three of their last four fixtures to move well clear of relegation danger. On this occasion, they were 3-0 away winners over Deportivo La Coruña, with left-back Guillherme Siqueira central to the result.

The marauding full-back was at his cavaliering best in the encounter, supplying an assist for Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo before converting a penalty in the final minutes. Guillherme is highly tipped to move on to bigger things in the summer.

While Mexico international Giovani dos Santos was not able to influence proceedings for Mallorca against Osasuna, he would be rescued by fellow Brazilian Geromel, with the commanding centre-back rescuing a last-minute draw for his side.

The defender, who has been one of the standouts of La Liga this campaign, headed home from goalkeeper Dudu Aouate's long ball into the area to secure a point for the Balaeric island side.

In a Brazil-influenced match in Vallecas, revelation of the 2012-13 season Léo Baptistão helped his Rayo side to a shock 2-1 victory over Atlético Madrid with his seventh league goal of the campaign.

Miranda and Filipe Luis both performed well for the Champions League chasers, but were helpless to prevent their smaller neighbours from producing a somewhat surprising result.

In Italy, Hernanes made a return from his head injury wearing a rugby-style protective hat as Lazio drew with Napoli 1-1. So important is the Brazilian to the Rome-based side that they took all measures possible to ensure his swift return.

Also of note, on Monday night, Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva will make his 200th appearance for the club when they take on West Brom in the Premier League.