Rafael looks to class of '99 for inspiration

Rafael wants Manchester United to summon the spirit of 1999 as they look to pull off an improbable victory against Bayern Munich.

Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United and Rafael (R)

The dark clouds and the protest banners above Old Trafford disappeared on Saturday as United returned to winning ways with a 4-1 demolition of Aston Villa.

A much tougher assignment lies in wait for David Moyes' side on Tuesday, though, when Bayern come to Manchester for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie against the Red Devils.

The most dramatic victory in United's 136-year history came against the Bavarians 15 years ago when last-gasp goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won Sir Alex Ferguson his first Champions League trophy.

Rafael was an eight-year-old growing up in Rio de Janeiro when that famous night in Barcelona was written into the history books, but ever since he moved to United in 2008 he has watched the game back countless times and he has heard tales from the men who were on the pitch.

United may not be able to call upon Sheringham, Solskjaer, Paul Scholes or David Beckham any more, but Rafael believes history suggests the team can upset the odds again, just as they did at the Nou Camp.

"Everyone is beatable in football and after what happened in '99 everything is possible," the United full-back said.

"We can use what happened then as an inspiration.

"I watch the video of that game all the time. I like Ole. When he was (coaching) the reserves I spoke with him about that goal a lot. It is funny."

Ryan Giggs' commitment to yoga and a healthy lifestyle mean he has managed to keep his place in the United squad some 15 years on from the dramatic 2-1 win.

Bayern have a completely different squad now and it is blessed with some of the best talent in the world.

A spine of Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng and Bastian Schweinsteiger is complimented by the creative wizardry of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Mario Gotze and Mario Mandzukic.

While United are struggling in seventh position, Munich won the Bundesliga last weekend with seven games to spare.

It is no wonder, therefore, that Rafael wants United to raise their game for the match.

"We have to be at 200-300 per cent to win," the Brazilian said.

"I have watched some of their games this year and I think they are one of the best teams in the world."

Two years on from that night in Barcelona, Bayern got their revenge by knocking United out of the Champions League.

The German side did the same again four years ago at the quarter-final stage. United looked set to make the last four when they raced into a 3-0 lead at Old Trafford the week after they lost the first leg 2-1.

But Rafael picked up his second booking for a tug on Ribery's shirt in the 50th minute and Bayern found the net twice to go through on away goals.

The dismissal still bothers the 23-year-old to this day.

"It's still on my mind and I will never forget it," he said. "I played so good in the first half but then I got sent off.

"It was a lot of help for Bayern when they play against 10 men. It cost United the match.

"I learned I must keep my head after that. I hope I stay on the pitch this time!"

Moyes raised doubts about whether Rafael would be fit for Tuesday's first leg after the defender went off at half-time against Villa.

The player himself says he should be fit, though.

"I am okay," he said directly after the Villa game. "My thigh was a little bit tight. We just wanted to make sure I would be okay for Tuesday."



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