Rafael - van Persie
Rafael - van Persie Reuters

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Denis Irwin has reserved special praise for Rafael de Silva's progress at Manchester United, as the Brazilian continues to be an important part of the side's improving defensive line up this season.

Da Silva made the move to Old Trafford from Fluminense in 2008, and has made some mistakes as he developed in his four year career with the side so far, in particular receiving a red card in the 2010 Champions League quarter final against Bayern Munich.

And Irwin, who won the treble with United in 1999, believes that the Brazilian has learnt from his years with the club and is now a very important member of the squad.

"There has never been a question about Rafael's talent," Irwin told M.E.N. Sport.

"He was brave, aggressive and his attacking qualities were very good. He had all the attributes.

"His problem was that as a young player he was impetuous and the timing of his tackles got him into trouble and caused problems.

"He has had to learn to be a lot more patient with his defending. He had been trying to win things too early. He wanted to win the ball when it wasn't feasible."

Irwin is certain that Rafael has used the lessons from his mistakes to make himself into the player he is today, taking the positives from tough situations rather than letting negatives affect him.

"Rafael was a young man when he came into United's first team," he explained. "He was only a teenager and it is a tough level to come into at that age.

"To be playing against Bayern Munich as a 19-year-old was a big thing. But making that mistake that night will be a great part of his learning curve.

"I was older when I came to United but Gary Neville was only young when he broke through and I can remember him making mistakes.

"The key is not to let them wreck you. Gary didn't and Rafael doesn't appear to have let them damage him either. They can be very harsh lessons but very valuable.

"It is not a nice place to be when they happen but they can be vital to your improvement.

"You get better as you get older and that is what we are seeing with Rafael now."