The 22-year-old Brazilian has started all but two of United’s games this season to help the Red Devils keep pace with Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table.
And Ferguson believes the defender has made huge strides in his development of late, including learning not to overcommit himself.
“Rafael was our best player on Saturday [against Stoke],” said Ferguson ahead of Manchester United’s Champions League clash against Braga on Tuesday.
“He’s maturing and learning all the time and he’s blessed with great enthusiasm to play. He has good skill, speed, determination – he has all the qualities and maturity brings all those qualities together. Bit by bit he’s done that in the last two or three years.
“Last year and the year before he was impulsive, over-committing himself. He knows that and we’ve been over it a few times. But he’s maturing fantastically.”
• United have never lost at home to Portuguese opponents but José Peseiro’s Braga are on a seven-match unbeaten sequence on their travels in Europe.
• United’s home record against Portuguese teams is W8 D3 L0. In addition, they won the first of their three European Cups by beating Benfica 4-1 in the 1968 final at Wembley.
• United have won 100 games in the Champions League, group stage to final.
• Ryan Giggs has scored in a record 16 different Champions League seasons. He is also the competition’s oldest scorer, at 37 years and 289 days.
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