Manchester United full-back Rafael believes he has progressed well over the past 12 months.
Although suffering the disappointment of missing out on the Premier League title to rivals Manchester City, the Brazilian has recently established himself as one of the few mainstays in the current United side, starting more matches than any other player in the squad this season.
“It’s been a great year for me,” the defender told his club’s official website. “I feel like I have grown up a lot and that I am maturing – my daughter was born this year which has helped me a lot too.
“And on the pitch I have been able to play a lot of games. So I’ve had a lot of good moments not just in football but in life this year.
“I feel more experienced and like I am growing as a player and a person. I was only 18 when I first came here, I was just a boy. Some people may think I am still young and still a boy but now I feel like I am a man.
“Playing games week in, week out helps you feel more comfortable and confident on the pitch and I’m pleased I’ve been able to do that this season.”
Looking forward to what might come of the current campaign, the 22-year-old was keen to stress the importance of taking advantage of the busy fixture schedule over the festive period in order to set the club in good stead for the rest of the league season come the New Year.
“My target for 2013 is like every player – we want to win trophies,” he added. “When you’re at this club that has to be your focus, we all want to win and personally I want to play as many games as I can and be consistent in my performances.
“When you get into January you know the really important time in the season is not far away and there will be big game after big game.
“Of course, every game is important but after Christmas they become massive matches. Hopefully we can do well.”