Six Brazilian footballers have represented Manchester United since Kleberson, the first, signed for the club in the summer of 2003. They have met with varying levels of success, although not one has gone on to be a genuine, regular first teamer of influence.
If Lucas Moura joins (which is still a massive if) then he will have to buck the trend, both at the club and nationally, as very few Brazilians have succeeded in the Premier League. Indeed, only 7 Brazilians hold a winners medal (Anderson, Rafael and Fabio at United, Gilberto Silva and Edu at Arsenal, Beletti and Alex at Chelsea with an asterisk against the Brazilian born Portugal international Deco).
Whilst the twins are remarkably popular, neither are genuinely established, and the other Brazilians at United have often faded without a trace.
What has gone wrong when Brazilians have joined United?
Jose Kleberson, 2003-05, 30 apps, 2 goals
Kleberson came to Old Trafford a World Cup winner. Not just any World Cup winner, but first choice in the centre of midfield for the Brazil side widely hailed as the greatest modern winner of the World Cup. Despite his credentials, he managed only 16 league starts during his two years at the club before being shipped off to Besiktas.
A technically gifted player, Kleberson struggled with both the physicality and pace of the Premier League which, along with the stifling presences of Paul Scholes, the fading Roy Keane and the emerging Darren Fletcher, meant that he never made much of an impact. He scored his first goal for the club on only his third start, but it is perhaps telling that he had to wait until 22nd November to make it.
Kleberson also attracted publicity for the fact that his wife was only 15 years old. Although that would usually cause outrage in England, it was the cultural norm in Brazil, although rumours that she was unhappy in Manchester laid an unpleasant backdrop to his time at the club.
Anderson, 2007-present, 145 apps, 7 goals.
Anderson arrived from Porto with a huge pricetag and massive expectations on his shoulders, being labelled the “new Ronaldinho”, a moniker that appears laughable in hindsight. Far closer to the new Edgar Davids, only without the passing ability, work-rate or goal threat, Anderson has flattered to deceive during his five seasons at the club.
Despite often looking like he’s about to become a really important first team player, a combination of injury problems and a love of burgers has held him back and this pre-season once again sees him making boasts about how it will finally be “his year”.
I have a lot of time and patience for Anderson because I think he is a really good player and, once or twice, he has put together superb runs of form and really looked the part. I can’t help but think that his next slump in form will be his last at the club as Fergie is rarely this patient with anyone.
Rodrigo Possebon, 2008-10, 8 apps
Lauded during his stay as the best young passer at the club, Possebon arrived from Internacional in January 2008 and, thanks to his Italian dual nationality, was able to make his debut against Newcastle that August as a substitute. A player of immense promise, he fell victim to serial hatchet man Emmanuel Pogatetz and struggled to regain momentum after recovering from a serious injury which was at first suspected to be a broken leg.
That season proved to be his only at the club. He moved on loan to Braga, initially for the entirety of the next season but, after Braga cut the loan short after not being impressed with what they saw, he moved permanently to Santos in Brazil.
He started brightly there, playing alongside the likes of Ganso and Neymar, but soon fell out of favour and now finds himself lining up for a team called Criciuma. Unfortunately it looks like his talent will remain unfulfilled.
Rafael da Silva, 2008-present, 90 apps, 2 goals
One half of the ever popular twins, Rafael would be United’s established right-back but for constant injury problems. Despite this, his performances have been absolutely outstanding when fit and, despite blotting his copybook with a red card against Bayern Munich when United were on top, has been a huge success.
Rafael arrived at the club in 2008 after impressing in a youth tournament for Fluminense, and made his debut off the bench in the same game as Possebon, replacing Frazier Campbell. He scored his first goal for the club, a wonderful volley late in a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal, on the 8th of November, and ended the season with a nomination for PFA Young Player of the Year, an award he was beaten to by Ashley Young.
Rafael is currently representing Brazil at the Olympics and will be hoping to make the right-back slot his own next season. His two main competitors, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, are seen as long-term center-backs, so only a continuation of his injury troubles should prevent him from cementing his place. Another possible threat could be Tony Valencia, but the Ecuadorian offers far too much going forward to realistically see him converted.
Fabio da Silva, 2008-present, 53 apps, 2 goals
Fabio is the less established of the da Silva twins, but is no less talented than his popular brother. Arriving at the same time, injury troubles (which follow the twins wherever they go) meant that he didn’t make his first United appearance until January 2009, and didn’t play in the league until August 2009, a full 12 months after his brother.
The highlight of his Old Trafford career so far is scoring the opening goal in a 2-0 win over Arsenal, a match that saw Fergie slated before kick-off for selecting Brown, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Rafael, Fabio and O’Shea in the same team, seemingly seven defenders. However, Fabio’s close-range finish and Rooney’s second half strike were enough to see off a full-strength Arsenal side.
Fabio has moved on loan to QPR for the coming season, which should see him gain far more opportunities to play than he would do as Patrice Evra’s alternative thanks to the managers unshakeable faith in the Frenchman. Given his age, Evra has one or two more seasons at the top level in him at most, so a successful loan should see Fabio jump right to the head of the queue for a place at left-back.