By ESPNSTAR.com staff
Neville retired in the middle of the 2010/11 season after making over 600 appearances for United but so far Ferguson has resisted the temptation to splash the cash in the transfer market on a ready-made replacement.
The United boss clearly sees a big and long future at Old Trafford in the right-back position for Rafael, who is just 22-years-old.
"He's a Brazilian who trains like a beast," Ferguson said on the club's website.
"He never misses training - the boy is just a football fanatic. When he goes home in the summer, he plays every day for his street team back in Brazil.
"Maybe he had rashness and the impetuosity of a young boy but somewhere along the line that maturity comes along and the rashness disappears. His form this season has been brilliant and the boy is really tough now."
When Ferguson was asked whether he felt the Brazilian could go on to achieve similar things at the club like Neville did during a trophy-laden career, he replied: "Definitely".
"There's no doubt about that. Gary was not the finished article when he came into the team but was lucky in the sense that he came in at a time when we were trying to push forward all our young players. But Gary improved and became absolutely fantastic - probably the best right-back the club has ever had," he said.
"It did take time for him in terms of his use of the ball and crossing but all these things developed because he wanted to work on them. Rafael is definitely the more naturally talented. Gary came to us as a centre-back, don't forget."
Rafael joined United in 2008 from Fluminense.