Twenty-four-year-old Rafael could be one of the players who benefits most from Louis van Gaal’s move to a three-man central defense, but having suffered a groin injury late last week, the right back’s assimilation into Manchester United’s new approach has been halted. Now, with the Red Devils’ season opener less than three weeks away, the Brazilian defender has been sent back to England, with the severity of his injury ruling him out of the remainder of United’s preseason tour.
Rafael suffered the injury on Friday in Denver, where the Red Devils were preparing to face AS Roma. Though United went on to defeat Serie A’s runners up 3-2, Rafael didn’t play, giving way to Ecuadorian international Antonio Valencia a right wing back.
This evening, United confirmed Rafael’s new status, saying the defender was “unlikely” to participate in the rest of the team’s tour.
Rafael has returned to Manchester to continue treatment on the groin injury sustained in training in Denver.
As he was unlikely to participate in the remaining tour games, returning to the Aon Training Complex affords the best overall option for his recovery in time to continue pre-season preparation when the team returns.
Plagued by injuries last season, Rafael was limited to 18 Premier League starts, with his now fragility putting this season’s opener in doubt. If he can’t get healthy before Aug. 16’s visit from Swansea City, van Gaal will have to choose between Valencia and two players who figure to have more impact in central defense: Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.