Rafael could take a significant step towards a return to the first team this week. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is said to be considering playing the 21-year-old Brazilian in the reserves against Everton on Thursday.
Rafael has been out since August, when he had surgery on a shoulder injury.
“Rafael has been training for over a week. It was a big operation on his shoulder and we hope we can maybe fit a game in for him – maybe the next reserve game” said Fergie. “He’s coming along fine, there has been no setback and he has been training every day.”
Rafael’s return could prove timely, with Chris Smalling having been ruled out for a month with a fractured foot.