The Brazilian defender claimed Van Gaal was making a mistake by getting rid of him and Robin van Persie in a summer clear-out that has also seen Tom Cleverley, Nani and Angel di Maria leave the club.
“Since Van Gaal arrived at Manchester United, I barely played under him. He did not give me an opportunity,” Rafael told Brazilian paper Globo Esporte. “It is said that Van Gaal doesn’t like Brazilian players. But to be honest, I can’t say that he actually doesn’t like us. What I can say is that he didn’t like me. I don’t know whether it was because I was Brazilian or not.
“He told me I had to leave the club. So I had no second thoughts when I received the offer from Lyon. I had lots of friends at United. Even Alex Ferguson called me to wish me luck. I had a great relationship with him. He was always helping me. It was hard for me and for us when he left United. When Ferguson left it was disastrous for me. I had played really well under him.”
Rafael played 28 games in Ferguson’s final Premier League- winning season, in 2012-13, the highest number since he first joined in 2008. But he dropped out of contention under David Moyes and then Van Gaal, who preferred to play Antonio Valenica, before then a winger, as a right-sided wing-back.
“Van Gaal arrived with other ideas, and I had to respect it. Van Gaal picked Valencia as right wing-back. He is a great player, but I was playing really well at that moment. I think I had done a good job. I’m pretty sure I would be still playing for United now if Ferguson had stayed. He left the club at my best moment.
“It would have been useless for me to stay at United, because I was not going to play under Van Gaal. At the end of the last season, Van Gaal came and told me, ‘You can find a new club because you will not play under me in the next season’. I replied, ‘Okay, I will do that. It was hard for me. I was surprised when he let Van Persie move away, too. Van Persie still had a lot to give to United. I also still had a lot I could do for them.”
Rafael’s words follow on from another of Van Gaal’s former players, Hristo Stoichkov, criticising the coach’s methods and management style. Nani and Van Persie have so far kept quiet about their experiences of working under Van Gaal.