Rafael made his first Manchester United appearance since 1 January Getty Images/Laurence Griffiths

Rafael da Silva has expressed his delight over returning to the Manchester United first team and has urged manager Louis van Gaal to hand him more chances in the coming weeks.

The Brazilian defender came off the bench to replace Michael Carrick in the final minutes of United's 3-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on 15 March for just his second appearance of the year.

Rafael suffered a fractured cheekbone in early January but has otherwise remained injury-free in 2015. Despite his fitness, he has been unable to force his way into Van Gaal's first-team plans and has instead featured regularly for the under-21 ranks.

But having tasted first-team action again, the 24-year-old is excited over his chances in the coming weeks and is eager to regain his spot in United's battle to secure a top-four spot.

"It was very good for me and it was also very important for me, to come into the game and play for the first team again," Rafael told United's official website.

"I just want to be involved now. Of course, it was good to play. Training has been fantastic as well. Now I just want to be involved with the team and if I get a chance, then I want to play well."

United's excellent performance against Tottenham, widely regarding as their best of the season, has rejuvenated the club's hopes of clinching a top-four finish. But the club face the most difficult fixture list compared with those around them, with a meeting with Liverpool to follow on 22 March.

However, Rafael believes their trip to Anfield could not have come at a better time, with the rest of the squad still on a high after the Spurs win.

He said: "Of course this result is very good for our confidence ahead of the Liverpool game. It is very good to win a game against a team like Tottenham, playing some fantastic football with a high tempo and lots of energy. It has boosted our confidence.

"It is always tough to play there at Anfield, but I think it is very good to get this result before that game."