However, Cassiano Pereira has denied the substance of the rumour, per Malyon's article:
I see it as being quite difficult [signing Rafael]. He's a starter, despite having been injured [and] nobody at Corinthians has talked to me.
Suddenly, there is interest. If there is, it's great. All third parties and players see Corinthians very positively, but it's hard, because he is happy at United.... He is not even thinking about returning to Brazil.
Having indeed been sidelined by injury, a combination of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Rafael's twin brother Fabio have all deputised for Rafael—without persistent success.
Aside from Jones' performance against Swansea, and Smalling's against Bayer Leverkusen, all three have found it tough replacing the Braziian.
This may have been surprising earlier in Rafael's career, following an inconsistent spell in the team, but he has rapidly progressed over the past 12 months and is one of United's most improved players. Indeed, Rafael's current reputation in football is arguably far lower than his standing in the game.
The concept of Corinthians taking him back to Brazil seemed hugely improbable, even before Pereira's quotes.
He's a first-choice player at one of the biggest clubs in the world. At 23, he's only going to develop further over the next few years and become increasingly integral to United's approach.
Rafael's improvements haven't yet been appreciated by everyone back in Brazil. His lapse in the Olympic gold-medal match, that essentially handed Mexico the win at London 2012, has seen the player unable to add on his two international caps—something Pereira also alludes to, per Malyon:
He dreams of playing in the World Cup, I've got no doubt about that. I don't understand why he hasn't been chosen by Scolari.
Because of one second, a player doesn't get another chance? Rafael is an exemplary player... they placed all the responsibility on him but a game lasts 90 minutes. It was an injustice.
In fairness to Scolari, Barcelona's Dani Alves presents a formidable barrier to Brazil's first XI, but should Rafael recover from his latest injury and produce the kind consistency he returned last year, then he has every chance of making the squad.
As far as Corinthians are concerned, remaining at Manchester United and replicating that form on one of the biggest stages of all is surely a far better strategy.