Losing Rafael: Five Stages Of Man United Grief
I love Rafael da Silva. It’s no secret. So upon hearing rumours that our new ‘trainer-coach’ Louis van Gaal had deemed the Brazilian surplus to requirements I underwent, what I like to call, ‘Dr Hibbert’s Five Stages of Grief’.
First is ‘Denial’. I convinced myself that it was rubbish. “It’s the Mail!”, I said. “No-one believes what they read in the Daily Mail unless you’re an old white lady or Alan Partridge”. But it’s believable, let’s face it. Van Gaal seems happy with Antonio Valencia at right wing back and the move for Juan Cuadrado seems to be gathering pace, so unfortunately, Rafael would be third in the pecking order under the Dutchman. And that’s when I got frustrated.
Second is ‘Anger’. When you get angry these days, the first thing to do is to take to Twitter to yell/Caps lock your problems out into the world. I expressed my desire for wanting Rafael to stay, even going to the lengths of suggesting that I’d rather see the new manager go than the little Brazilian. Confined by the 140 character limit of Twitter I started going over it in more detail in my head instead. “Why is that stupid Harold Bishop lookalike getting rid of one of the most likeable players in the squad just because he’s had a bad season under some janitor posing as Manchester United manager?” was one such thought. “Why is he keeping that Made in Chelsea extra who can’t pick a simple pass in midfield over that adorable man-boy who was once photographed on his laptop with a Luigi plush?” was another. You can see just by the way I describe Van Gaal unflatteringly as an aging/possibly dead Australian soap star that the second stage had well and truly got hold of me, so it was time to move on to number three.
Third is ‘Fear’. I was scared of a future Rafael-less. “We’ve already lost one Da Silva twin, what happens if the superior one leaves too?”. “What if the alleged £36m fee becomes too much for Cuadrado and he becomes another Nani?”. “What if Valencia gets another serious injury, who will play in that position then?”. “What if Cuadrado turns out to be another bore and we’ve let go of a player who was primed to take over Patrice Evra’s place as cult hero?”. Y’know, that sort of thing. Then my fear manifested itself into an attempt to be comedic. “More like Rafael Da Sellva!”, I tweeted as I rocked back and forth with tears in my eyes. This takes us neatly onto the next stage.
Fourth is ‘Bargaining’. I have a friend who isn’t keen on Rafael. He shall remain nameless for fear (there it is again) of reprisals from Top Reds. I stated to him that I was happier to see his beloved Kagawa go than Rafael. “Take anyone but him!”, I yelled/typed into Facebook Messenger. I must point out that I genuinely believe this. I would prefer any one of United’s current squad to leave the club than the Brazilian, with the possible exceptions of David De Gea, Adnan Januzaj and Danny Welbeck. Football isn’t solely about the results. That doesn’t make me some hipster purist who bemoans the lack of ‘style’ of Tony Pulis’ teams, mind. My preference is to a team full of players that I enjoy seeing in a red shirt. Players I feel genuine warmth for.
Players I would love to see lift trophies with the club. Rafael and the aforementioned trio are the epitome of that philosophy after the departures of Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic. I need them to stay right where they are for years to come.
The lack of quotation marks in that last paragraph are not incidental. I haven’t reached the fifth stage, ‘Acceptance’, yet and I’m not sure I ever will even as he’s unveiled next to Florentino Perez. So thank you, Dr Hibbert, for helping me make sense of my reaction to this horrible, bone-chilling news.