Rafael was reasonably successful while at Manchester United. The Brazilian won three Premier League titles at Old Trafford, and became something of a cult figure for his marauding runs and on-field passion.
But Louis van Gaal, who took over from the ill-fated David Moyes in the summer of 2014, wasn’t a fan of the former Brazil defender. In fact, that’s a massive understatement.
Rafael, in an illuminating interview with ESPN, revealed the no-nonsense management Van Gaal displayed towards the full-back when telling him he wasn’t in his first-team plans.
“In his first season, van Gaal called me to his office and said: ‘You can leave,'” Rafael said. “The meeting lasted one minute. That was it: ‘You can leave.’ It took time for me to go, but I was desperate to leave when I did, and that saddens me because I loved everything about Manchester United.
“Van Gaal is not a bad coach, but I didn’t like his character. One day, I was in the canteen waiting to eat. van Gaal used to speak to us after we’d eaten each day. I had a head injury after a game at Yeovil – one of the few games I played in that season – and I was touching my injury. After three or four seconds, he touched my head and said: ‘Why don’t you respect me?’
“I stood up and said: ‘I always respect you. I’ve never said anything which was disrespectful to you.’ I am a patient guy, but I got angry then. I had done nothing wrong. Antonio [Valencia] later said to me: ‘You’re not going to play again.’ Players didn’t speak back to van Gaal. Antonio was almost right; I barely played again. I love Manchester United, but I was so desperate to leave United. Only one man did that because I liked everything about the place. I couldn’t handle him anymore.”
It gets worse. Rafael eventually joined Lyon in 2015, but the Brazilian also revealed the savage text message Van Gaal sent him when the deal was done.
It simply said: “you know how football is.” Ouch.
Although Rafael restrained himself and replied “thank you”, he’s still clearly not too happy about it. “I was being polite,” he said. “But I was angry.”
Well Louis van Gaal seems like a thoroughly nice bloke who knows how to nurture young footballers…