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Man United's brilliant Brazilian twins

Rob Hughes traces the rise of Manchester United's Brazilian twins, Rafael and Fabio da Silva, who were key to United's 2-0 FA Cup quarterfinal win over Arsenal on Saturday. Fabio scored one of the goals and Rafael played a part in both goals.

When the da Silva twins were 11 years old, they watched on television at home when Brazil’s captain, Cafu, lifted the 2002 World Cup in Yokohama City, Japan. “One day,” said their father, “it will be you two.” At age 15, twins lived and trained with their nearest big club, Fluminense, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. By 17, the scouts of Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal were seeing what their father saw.

United, the first to make an offer, won the signatures. Now 20, and still so identical that they are difficult to tell apart, the da Silvas dismantled Arsenal. They looked, indeed, to be contenders for the World Cup on Brazilian soil in 2014. Neither was selected to perform in the fullback positions they are maturing into. Instead, the played on the wings.

“I needed to come up with a plan that gave us energy in midfield,” said Coach Alex Ferguson, whose team had a heavy list of injuries and held back senior players for Tuesday's Champions League match against Marseille. “The da Silvas are such keen and enthusiastic boys, I felt they could do it.”

Read the whole story at New York Times »

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